Hong Kong, July 14 (IANS) Hundreds of journalists staged a silent protest in Hong Kong on Sunday to denounce what they view as unacceptable treatment by the police while covering the recent wave of demonstrations.
About 1,000 journalists and their supporters marched silently under the theme “Stop Police Violence, Defend Press Freedom.”
The peaceful rally took place in response to what members of the media consider “abuses of power” and “obstruction and attack against journalists by police officers,” which they experienced when reporting on anti-government protests in the past weeks, reported Efe news.
The action was organized by the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) and it ended with its President, Chris Yeung, reading a statement: “During the recent series of protests, journalists were unjustifiably dispersed, pushed away, verbally insulted, or even beaten by batons, (and) shot by bean bag rounds by police officers (on) a number of occasions.”
Freelance photojournalist Chan Long-hei told Efe: “The police have hindered our work in each and every protest. They would shine strong flashlight at us, making it difficult for us to take pictures. They would push us away with their shields even when there is ample empty space around.
“The most serious of all is they would mark an area far away from a spot where a newsworthy action takes place and we are confined within that area. That’s blatant obstruction to journalists’ work.”
Since June, HKJA has received 29 complaints from journalists against police officers for alleged excessive use of force and obstruction to their reporting work.
The association urged the authorities to respect freedom of the press and launch an independent inquiry into excessive use of force by the police.
Protests have become an increasingly frequent occurrence in the former British colony, ever since a million Hongkongers took to the streets on 9 June to protest a controversial government bill that would have allowed individuals to be extradited to China to stand trial in courts controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.
When the city’s top leader Carrie Lam announced the bill’s suspension-rather than its withdrawal, as demanded by people-another mass protest ensued, this time attracting two million citizens.
A few days later, hundreds of young protesters stormed and vandalized the city’s parliament.
On 9 July, Lam declared the “death” of the proposed law. The demise of the extradition bill has, however, done little to placate people.
Many Hong Kong citizens have pent-up anger over various issues that generally boil down to China’s increasing encroachment on the semi-autonomous city.
Buoyed by the huge protest turnouts and a growing sense of solidarity, people feel it is time to bring different kinds of issues to the fore by staging more protests.
Last Sunday an estimated 10,000 people took to the streets to protest against middle-aged “Singing Aunties,” many of them from mainland China, who the protesters claim have for years been a public nuisance with their loud singing and provocative dancing in a neighborhood park.
On Saturday, about 20,000 people rallied in a town near the Chinese border in protest of mainland Chinese traders flooding the area, snapping up goods and reselling them in mainland China.
The Sunday march was followed by another mass protest on the afternoon, where about 100,000 people according to organizers turned up with a set of public demands.