Press freedom in Hong Kong

Attack on journalists is affront to free press

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 March, 2013, 2:52am

Outrage and condemnation came after a handful of Hong Kong journalists on assignment in Beijing were brutally attacked. They were abused by a group of men of unknown identity when covering an activist trying to visit Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo's wife on Friday. The journalists were doing nothing more than legitimate reporting on the activist and the dissident's wife. The assault is an affront to press freedom and the public's right to know.

Liu Xia has been put under a virtual house arrest for almost two years after she announced her husband had dedicated the Nobel Peace Prize to victims of the 1989 pro-democracy crackdown. So when local activist Yang Kuang vowed to visit her again after his first but futile attempt on Thursday, Hong Kong journalists naturally saw reporting as a matter of public interest. Although they could not expect a warm welcome when they appeared outside Liu's residence, the abuse went beyond what is acceptable to civilised society.

News footage showed some journalists had been roughed up and punched, with one being pushed to the ground and trampled on by the men. Disturbingly, the attackers were allowed to walk away. When reporters at the scene pressed public security officials for an explanation, they were instead told not to ask further questions.

Mainland authorities are obviously determined to keep Liu Xia away from public attention. That the visit came when the top legislature and advisory body are in annual session must have hit a raw nerve. The immediate outpouring of anger by local news groups and politicians shows the use of force against journalists doing legitimate news reporting will not be tolerated. The Liu couple's ordeal reflects badly on China as a rising modern world power. It is damaged further when journalists working for the public interest are suppressed by violence. The mainland authorities should seriously investigate and handle the case according to the law. Our government should also take it up with mainland authorities.