HSBC has been blasted by the Press Photographers Association after a local journalist was allegedly manhandled by security guards as he walked through the plaza underneath the bank's Central headquarters.
Economic Times photographer Jacky Poon was surrounded by security guards on Friday night shortly after he finished a job covering a nearby hunger strike staged by pan-democrats campaigning for universal suffrage.
An argument broke out between Poon and the guards and the journalist says he was prevented from passing. The guards allegedly pushed Poon, who called police. Officers asked the two parties to reconcile and Poon did not pass through the area.
The row comes amid heightened concern for press freedom in Hong Kong, following attacks on former Ming Pao chief editor Kevin Lau Chun-to and Hong Kong Morning News Media Group's director Lei Iun-han and news controller Lam Kin-ming.
The Press Photographers Association said it "regrets and is outraged by the HSBC's unreasonable move to send the journalist away and deprive him of his rights to use the passage as a member of the public".
It added it hoped the "reputable" bank would respect the rights of people of different occupations to use the passage freely.
The area belongs to HSBC but an agreement with the government states that the company should open it for pedestrians.
Responding to media inquiries, HSBC apologised to Poon. A spokesman said it "was the result of a misunderstanding".