British police still investigating Chinese journalist who slapped student volunteer at UK event despite releasing her from custody
Inquiries ongoing says West Midlands force as state broadcaster CCTV says reporter Kong Linlin, 48, was freed after ‘pressure of public opinion’ and intervention of Chinese embassy
British police are still investigating a reporter from China’s state-run broadcaster CCTV, who was arrested and then released after slapping a student volunteer at a conference attended by Hong Kong democracy activists.
Kong Linlin, 48, was originally taken into custody on suspicion of common assault, but released when the Chinese embassy in London intervened.
State broadcaster CCTV, in a report late on Monday night, described what happened to the female journalist on Sunday at the event in Birmingham as “ridiculous”, and demanded an apology from the conference’s co-organisers, London-based NGO Hong Kong Watch and Britain’s Conservative Party Human Rights Commission.
On Tuesday, Benedict Rogers, deputy chairman of the human rights commission, and founder of Hong Kong Watch, said it should be the Chinese embassy and CCTV who apologise.
Rogers said the reporter didn’t ask a question at all. “She simply shouted, screamed and yelled abuse at me and at the other speakers, and then assaulted one of our volunteers at least twice,” he said.
CCTV had a different view of things.
“After the Chinese embassy in Britain made solemn representation, and after the pressure of public opinion, the British police have released Kong Linlin in a short period of time,” the broadcaster said.
The broadcaster quoted an unnamed lawyer as saying Kong had been released without charge, that the journalist had just been carrying out her duties, and conference organisers had acted “inappropriately”.
West Midlands Police said Kong “has not yet been charged”, but inquiries would continue.
New Hong Kong civic group co-founded by activist Joshua Wong appeals for international help to fend off ‘China’s sharp power’ in city
On Monday, an embassy spokesman expressed “serious concern and strong dissatisfaction” toward the conference, which he condemned as “boosting anti-China and separatist forces” and “intervening in China’s internal affairs”.
“Britain has been flaunting its freedom of speech, but when a Chinese reporter was asking questions and expressing opinions at a conference, she was obstructed and even violated,” the spokesman said. “This is not acceptable at all.”
In response, Rogers said the Chinese embassy and CCTV had “no cause for complaint”.
“Indeed, they should apologise for disrupting an event and for her assaulting someone,” Rogers said.
“The Chinese regime should not be allowed to behave in party conferences in Britain in the way it behaves at home.”
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office declined to comment citing ongoing police investigations.
Kong was arrested at 2.30pm on Sunday, London time, after she slapped Enoch Lieu, who was volunteering at the conference, twice.
The conference was discussing freedom, autonomy and the rule of law in Hong Kong. Participants said these things were being eroded.
Prominent Hong Kong democracy activists Martin Lee Chu-ming, founder of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party, scholar Benny Tai Yiu-ting, co-founder of the Occupy movement, and student leader Nathan Law Kwun-chung, spoke at the event.
Near the end of the conference, Rogers said he was neither for nor against China.
“I want China and its people to succeed. I am a critic of the current Chinese government and the way it treats its people, but I am pro-China [towards the] country … and I believe it is in both China’s and Britain’s interests for Hong Kong to succeed,” he said.
Rogers was at the centre of a row between Hong Kong and Britain last October after he was barred from entering the city.
After Rogers made his remarks, Kong stood up and shouted at him: “You are a liar. You are anti-China. You want to separate China. And you are not even Chinese. The rest are all traitors.”
Lieu tried to get her to leave the venue and was then slapped twice, according to the account he posted on Twitter.
Rogers said in a statement on Monday night that more than 80 witnesses saw Kong slap the volunteer.
“She should apologise immediately, and the Chinese government should retract their statement,” Rogers said.
“At a party conference in the UK, we have every right to discuss Hong Kong, not least because Britain has legal obligations to the people of Hong Kong under the Sino-British Joint Declaration. Under this treaty, lodged at the United Nations, Hong Kong affairs are still very much Britain’s concern,” Rogers added.
Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997 after 150 years of colonial rule. The declaration states that the “one country, two systems” principle, under which the city has a high degree of autonomy, shall be in place until 2047.
Hong Kong Journalists Association chairman Chris Yeung Kin-hing said Kong’s behaviour at the conference had been inappropriate.
“She mixed up her role as a journalist with the role of a commentator,” Yeung said. “A journalist can challenge a speaker’s arguments, but the way she acted was way too emotional.”
Kong had painted a negative image of Chinese journalists and the Chinese government, Yeung said, adding that CCTV should apologise to the conference organisers.
After her release, Kong has not posted anything new on her social media accounts, but has “liked” or shared posts supporting her.
One of those was a post on Weibo – China’s microblogging site – from Chinese columnist Li Mu saying that it was conference staff who first touched the reporter, so she too could call police. Li suggested that Kong consult her lawyers to see if she could report the bodily contact now the conference was over.
He Yanke, a CCTV journalist, wrote on his Weibo that he was standing with Kong.
But not everyone was supportive.
“As a journalist, shouldn’t she just report the facts objectively and let the audience judge? If she was not there as a journalist that day and was just there on her personal capacity, that would have been a different story,” a Weibo user calling himself Chen Quqen wrote.