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Games need complaints centre, says local NPC deputy

DAB lawmaker urges Bocog to set up body to receive gripes

A local deputy to the National People's Congress, Choy So-yuk, suggested yesterday that the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games set up a branch to field Games complaints, including from the press.

Ms Choy, who is also a legislator from the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, pointed out that there was no official branch for receiving such complaints.

Establishing such a branch would show Beijing's seriousness about improving, she said.

Paul Yeung, president of the Hong Kong Press Photographers Association, called on Beijing officials to give clear instructions and offer proper training to frontline police officers, to avoid further clashes between the press and the police during the Games.

'They are not experienced in handling a big event like this,' he said. 'I hope they will perform better after learning from this lesson, otherwise more scuffles will break out in the coming weeks.'

Law Yuk-kai, director of Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, said authorities should find out what went wrong on Friday and learn to accommodate reporters better.

Mr Law said the incident stemmed from the habit of mainland authorities quashing bad news.

'They instinctively stop anyone from reporting anything negative. If they want to respect press freedom, they should help facilitate reporters going to an advantageous location to see what is happening.'

Mark Allison, East Asia researcher for Amnesty International, said a public and independent inquiry would help allay concerns on police behaviour during the melee, which saw Post photographer Felix Wong Chi-keung detained for six hours.

About 21,000 foreign journalists are expected to descend on the mainland during the Games.

The Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists has set up hotline numbers for reporters facing problems.

'I don't think there is any place where they can use the law to bar reporters from doing their job,' said Woo Lai-wan, the group's co-ordinator for Hong Kong and China.

Ms Woo, a former chairwoman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, said the way police pulled journalists down from their stools and pushed them away from the press area 'was incredible and brutal'.

'Obviously, we are very angry about what happened in the last couple of days, not only the incident on Friday, but the Ming Pao and Apple Daily incidents. It is unacceptable,' she said, referring to the earlier harassment of two reporters in Beijing.

Police should understand that journalists, like them, were only doing their jobs, which was to be 'fair and balanced' in their reporting.

Mr Allison said: 'It's ironic when officials go on record to say human rights will improve during the Olympics. The Olympics is being used as a pretence to intensify repression.'

Hong Kong Journalists Association acting chairman Jackie Sam expressed concern about more police and media scuffles breaking out.

'Something strange seems to be going on there,' he said.

'The public security and central authority do not seem to be working together. I do not know if there is some misunderstanding or something is going on beneath the surface, but anything can happen and I am sure it will.'