Police have decided not to prosecute a man who allegedly attacked a South China Morning Post photographer outside court, citing insufficient evidence.
The decision, made after seeking the Department of Justice's advice, led to concerns about whether frontline journalists were given sufficient protection. This year alone has seen at least four incidents in which journalists were attacked.
On October 24, Chioo Wing-ming - who was seen in a YouTube video kneeling before his girlfriend Cheng Yan-na who slapped him 14 times - allegedly pushed over and kicked photographer May Tse outside Kowloon City Court.
Chioo, 23, had been leaving court with Cheng, 20, who had just been put on a good-behaviour bond for slapping him.
The incident occurred as journalists jostled to catch a glimpse of the couple. Tse suffered swelling to the back of her head, and a bruised arm and knee. Her injuries were treated in hospital. Her camera was also damaged.
Chioo was released unconditionally after police decided not to press charges. The Department of Justice said that after reviewing the evidence, which included videos, it concluded there was not enough proof "to demonstrate any reasonable prospect of conviction".
In February, Tse was slapped and shoved by two men as she took pictures of parallel-goods traders from a footbridge outside Sheung Shui MTR station. The pair were later sentenced to perform community service for their "barbarous and violent" acts. "There is a trend that people who attack journalists will not be prosecuted," said Tse. "This makes the life of a frontline journalist difficult and prevents us from carrying out our work.
"It's like when you're not happy, you can just take it out on the journalists - like it's something you don't have to be responsible for. Is the law really unable to protect journalists? I never imagined that I would be attacked twice in a year."
The Journalists Association's Ken Lui Tsz-lok called for further explanation as to why prosecution was deemed unwarranted.
The Press Photographers Association said media footage showed solid evidence against Chioo and urged the department to review its decision in the interests of safeguarding press freedom and journalists' safety.