Police in Hong Kong have arrested the pinnacle of the town’s journalists’ union on public order offenses, amid an ongoing crackdown on public dissent and peaceable political opposition beneath a draconian safety legislation imposed by Beijing.
Ronson Chan, chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists’ Affiliation (HKJA), was arrested whereas reporting on a gathering in Mong Kok regarding native folks’s livelihood on Sept. 7, the union mentioned in a press release on its web site.
“Two plainclothes law enforcement officials on the venue stopped [Chan] and requested for his ID,” the assertion mentioned. “Simply as Ronson Chan was about to point out his ID to one of many feminine law enforcement officials, one other plainclothes officer stepped ahead and yelled at him to ‘cooperate.'”
“Chan requested the policeman to point out his warrant card and requested the officer to substantiate his full identify and division, as he may solely see the surname Tan,” the assertion mentioned. “However the officer instantly issued a warning, and, inside a couple of minutes, had Chan in handcuffs beneath arrest, en route again to Mong Kok police station.”
Chan, who was arrested on suspicion of “obstructing a police officer” and “disorderly conduct in a public place,” was finally launched on bail after greater than 11 hours within the police station, and should report again on Sept. 21.
“The HKJA deeply regrets and condemns the interception, arrest and brutal remedy of Ronson Chan by the police,” the group mentioned. “He was cooperating with the police, but he was nonetheless handled unreasonably and arrested.”
Chan, former deputy project editor at now-defunct pro-democracy information outlet Stand Information, was re-elected as HKJA chairman in June.
He has continuously spoken out towards ever-diminishing press freedom within the metropolis.
He had been planning research journalism on a scholarship on the Reuters Institute at Oxford College, and had been scheduled to go away Hong Kong on the finish of September.
The International Correspondents’ Membership of Hong Kong mentioned it was “involved” over Chan’s arrest and was “monitoring the scenario very carefully.”
“Given Mr. Chan’s place as a distinguished chief in Hong Kong’s journalism group, the FCC strongly urges the authorities to train transparency and care in dealing with Mr. Chan’s case,” it mentioned.
“Hong Kong’s authorities has repeatedly instructed the general public that Hong Kong’s proper to press freedom and free speech … will not be in danger. The FCC helps journalists’ proper to cowl tales with out concern of harassment or arrest,” the assertion mentioned.
The assertion gained a rebuke from China’s international ministry, which mentioned it constituted “interference with the rule of legislation” in Hong Kong.
“There is no absolute press freedom anyplace in the world that may be above legislation, and the id of a journalist doesn’t imply they have amnesty or take pleasure in immunity for no matter they do,” the ministry’s consultant workplace in Hong Kong mentioned in a press release on its web site.
“No one ought to interact in actions that injury Hong Kong’s stability beneath the identify of journalism,” a spokesperson mentioned within the assertion, accusing the FCC of “taking each alternative to assault the Hong Kong authorities and help anti-China forces.”
“Their tips will chunk the mud,” the assertion mentioned.
‘Seditious sheep’ authors
On the day of Chan’s arrest, a Hong Kong court docket discovered 5 speech therapists responsible of “conspiracy to print, publish, distribute, show or reproduce seditious publications” beneath colonial-era sedition legal guidelines which have gotten a brand new lease of life for the reason that nationwide safety legislation took impact on July 1, 2020.
The 5 members of the Hong Kong Speech Therapists’ Union have been prosecuted over a sequence of youngsters’s books depicting “seditious” sheep, which the authorities mentioned confirmed help for the 2019 protest motion and “incited hatred” in the direction of the town’s authorities.
The 2 males and three girls aged 25-28 have been discovered responsible of “conspiring to publish seditious publications,” in reference to three youngsters’s image books titled “The Guardians of Sheep Village,” “The Rubbish Collectors of Sheep Village” and “The 12 Heroes of Sheep Village.”
Police mentioned the sheep have been meant to characterize protesters who fought again towards riot police in 2019, and depicted the authorities as wolves, “beautifying dangerous habits” and “poisoning” youngsters’s impressionable minds.
One e-book characterizes the wolves as soiled and the sheep as clear, whereas one other lauds the actions of heroic sheep who use their horns to battle again regardless of being naturally peaceable.
Maya Wang, a senior China researcher on the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), mentioned the court docket verdict confirmed how shortly Hong Kong’s judicial system is rising just like that in mainland China.
“Hongkongers used to observe information of individuals in mainland China getting prosecuted in ridiculous methods for writing political fables, however that is now occurring in Hong Kong,” Wang mentioned.
“The Hong Kong authorities ought to reverse this precipitous decline in [people’s] freedom and revoke the convictions of the 5 youngsters’s e-book authors.”
The case is the primary to see a conviction for “seditious publications” since 1967.
The crime of “sedition” — a common-law idea — was integrated into Hong Kong’s Crimes Ordinance beneath the colonial-era authorities in 1938, and was initially geared toward prohibiting publications that may arouse hatred towards the monarch.
Eric Lai, Hong Kong Regulation Fellow on the Georgetown Heart for Asian Regulation, mentioned the conviction of the “seditious sheep” authors means that freedoms within the metropolis have now regressed to pre-war colonial instances, and ignores latest suggestions from United Nations human rights specialists that the town cease utilizing “sedition” to prosecute folks.
“The Hong Kong courts have ignored these well timed and particular United Nations paperwork on the crime of sedition, which reveals that they’re completely unwilling to adjust to … the views of worldwide human rights specialists,” Lai mentioned.
Lai mentioned the prosecution of speech crimes additionally contravenes the U.N.’s Johannesburg Ideas, which state that the peaceable train of freedom of expression ought to by no means be seen as a menace to nationwide safety, and may come free from restrictions or penalties.
“This verdict can have a giant chilling impact on the publishing trade and the artistic world, now that discussing present affairs by means of metaphors or allegory in a youngsters’s e-book could be deemed to be inciting hatred of the federal government,” Lai mentioned.
Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.