Carrie Lam voices concerns over violent attack on Hong Kong reporter covering Sichuan earthquake anniversary
Chief executive says reporters, such as Chan Ho-fai, have right to lawful news gathering and personal safety
Hong Kong’s top official has said reporters have a right to lawful news gathering after a journalist from the city was beaten by two men in Sichuan province.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s remarks came after two men apologised to Chan Ho-fai of i-Cable News over the incident on Saturday at a press briefing arranged by Sichuan authorities.
Speaking after her visit to the province, Lam said city officials had “immediately called for an investigation”, contacting the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Office and its Sichuan branch.
She emphasised Hong Kong reporters should be able to work outside the city without fearing for their personal safety.
Lam said mainland Chinese affairs minister Patrick Nip Tak-kuen, also a member of her delegation visiting Sichuan on the 10th anniversary of a devastating earthquake, had contacted the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Office and called for an investigation, while travelling from Chengdu to Yingxiu.
Chan was kicked and beatenon Saturday morning as he was covering the earthquake anniversary outside Juyuan Middle School in Dujiangyan.
In a surprise move on Saturday evening, Dujiangyan’s propaganda office brought the two men to Chan after assembling members of Hong Kong media outlets. The pair apologised, claiming they were lao bai xing, or ordinary men.
However, residents in the local community told Hong Kong media the attackers were government officers from the town.
“They are here to prevent the press from covering [the ceremony commemorating lost lives], once found they will stop them,” Qin Lizhi, a local resident and father of a child who died in the disaster told TVB News.
Chan returned to Hong Kong on Sunday, but has declined a request for interview. Sources said he did not met with local police in Sichuan, nor was any witness statement taken. The propaganda department in Dujiangyan earlier said it had reported the case to local police.
Lam praised Sichuan officials for keeping an “open mind” and swiftly finding the attackers.
Asked whether the pair worked for the government, Lam said the matter would have to be left to the provincial authorities to investigate according to local laws.
Media groups, including the Hong Kong Journalists Association and the Hong Kong News Executives’ Association, issued statements on Saturday condemning the attack.