Hong Kong reporter who covered July 1 storming of LegCo facing riot charges

Protesters smash through the glass of the public entrance to the LegCo on July 1. Photo by Vicky Wong.
Protesters smash through the glass of the public entrance to the LegCo on July 1. Photo by Vicky Wong.

A Hong Kong reporter who covered the storming of the Legislative Council last summer is now facing a riot charge, his news organization said Tuesday.

Ma Kai-chung, who works with local online newspaper Passion Times, was earlier charged with  “entering or remaining” in the Legislative Council chamber on July 1 last year. But the court has revised the offence to a riot charge, which is punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

Passion Times is an online publication formerly affiliated with Civic Passion, a localist party that is seen to advocate a more radical and militant approach of protest compared to moderate pan-democrat groups.

Eleven others, including actor Gregory Wong Chung-yiu, activist Ventus Lau Wing-hong and ex-student leader Althea Suen Hiu-nam have also been handed a riot charge for the same incident.

On July 1 last year, hundreds of protestors smashed their way through the Legislative Council, a symbolic act of defiance against a government they accused of shutting out the movement’s demands. They vandalized the complex, spray-painting protest slogans and occupying the main chamber where key legislation is deliberated.

READ MORE: Battle of LegCo: Day of chaos, unrest capped by nighttime crackdown

Since protests erupted last summer, the pro-establishment camp has been calling for the city to tighten the screening of journalists by looking into an official press accreditation scheme amid suspicion that “fake journalists” are posing as protesters at demonstrations. Currently, there is no official organisation in Hong Kong responsible for issuing press cards centrally.

Last year, there were rumors that the government would require official registration for journalists, raising concerns within and outside the industry that the city’s press freedom was being violated.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam rejected the reports. “We have no intention or plan to start a centralised registration system for journalists,” she said.

Passion Times, founded in 2012, is a news outlet registered under the Office for Film, Newspaper and Article Administration, a government regulatory agency that oversees online and offline publications in the city.

Almost 9,000 people were arrested in the protests last year, but only around 1,700—fewer than 20%—have been prosecuted.

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