25 September 2023

Leading Hong Kong journalist found guilty of obstructing police officer

25 September 2023

The chairman of Hong Kong’s leading journalist group has been found guilty of obstructing a police officer.

The case has sparked concerns about the city’s declining press freedom.

Ronson Chan, chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association and a journalist of online news outlet Channel C, was arrested last September while on his way to a reporting assignment.

He was accused of refusing to show the plainclothes officer his identity card upon request.

Mr Chan’s arrest fuelled concerns about the erosion of media freedom in Hong Kong after Beijing imposed a national security law to crush dissent following the city’s massive pro-democracy protests in 2019.

The former British colony was promised it could keep its western-style civil liberties for 50 years when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Magistrate Leung Ka-kie on Monday ruled that Mr Chan had deliberately obstructed the officer from carrying out her duty and failed to take out his identity card in a timely manner.

He kept asking the officer questions “recklessly”, she said.

Mr Chan will be sentenced later on Monday and could face two years in prison.

Speaking to reporters before the hearing, Mr Chan said he was calm.

“No matter how the outcome is, it’s not the end of the day,” he said.

In the crackdown following the 2019 protests, two vocal media outlets — Apple Daily and Stand News — have been forced to shut down and some of their top managers have been prosecuted.

Two former top editors at Stand News, where Mr Chan used to work, were tried for sedition. A verdict is scheduled for November.

Pro-Beijing media outlets have attacked the association and Mr Chan, calling the professional group an anti-China political tool.

Hong Kong, once seen as a bastion of media freedom in Asia, ranked 140th out of 180 countries and territories in Reporters Without Borders’ latest World Press Freedom Index.

The organisation said the city saw an “unprecedented setback” since 2020, when the security law was imposed.

But Beijing and Hong Kong authorities said the law helped bring stability back to the city following the anti-government protests in 2019.

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