Members of Hong Kong’s press pack took part in a little top-notch trolling yesterday, showing up to a police briefing wearing helmets, gas masks, and yellow reflective vests after police were accused of indiscriminately using force against them at Wednesday’s massive anti-extradition protest.
The move came after the Hong Kong Journalists Association announced that they had gathered evidence of 17 cases of cops targeting members of the press, including instances of officers beating and injuring reporters with batons, firing tear gas canisters at them at close range, preventing journalists from filming arrests, and preventing reporters from doing interviews.
In perhaps the most serious instance, a driver for RTHK — the city’s public broadcaster — was shot in the head with a tear gas round. The blow caused his heart to briefly stop, and he was rushed to Queen Mary Hospital in an unconscious state.
The outlet has since reported that the driver, 48-year-old Chong Man-long, is fine, although his reaction time is still a bit slow, and doctors have advised he stay in hospital for observation.
In one video posted online by Commercial Radio, riot police urging people to move along appear to hit a journalist, who can be heard yelling, “I’m press!” while a police officer yells back, “you motherfucking journalist!”
HKJA said they would file a complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Council, and urged police commissioner Stephen Lo to dismiss the police officers involved.
In the meantime, they urged reporters attending a press conference with Lo on Thursday to turn up to the briefing in full protective regalia.
They heeded the call (the look on the police officials’ faces is frankly priceless):
Photojournalists in full protective gears attend police chief’s presser in protest of police violent treatment against the press during their clash with protesters who demand withdrawal of china extradition bill. (Sunny Mok/EYEPRESS) #press #police #ChinaExtradition pic.twitter.com/thOLnMDLUU
— EYEPRESS NEWS (@eyepressnews) June 13, 2019
.@hkappledaily questions if force guideline inc. swearing journalists, pointing guns and tear gas at them. Stephen Lo replied those injured could report to the police as he don’t know. He also said he’s polite and kind to reporters. All teased #antiELAB #NoExtraditionToChina pic.twitter.com/8rYY6TZiZC
— Galileo Cheng (@galileocheng) June 13, 2019
During the press briefing, Lo dismissed claims that excessive force was used against protesters, pointing to the fact that 22 of his officers were also hurt.
Lo said the protesters “started to use weapons to charge our cordon lines, then we had to respond. I consider my officers were acting in accordance with our guidelines and they rightfully used force to protect themselves and other people at the scene.”
The chief said the measures used – including batons, pepper spray, pepper jets, pepper balls, tear gas, beanbag rounds, and rubber bullets – were up to international standards and were widely used by other countries. Still, there has been widepsread backlash against police’s heavy-handed tactics against protesters.
Responding to a question by an Apple Daily reporter about the treatment of press on the front line, Lo’s comment of “everyone knows that I treat reporters with the most respect,” was met with chuckles from the press pack, prompting Lo to scold the crowd, saying,” “everyone stop laughing.”
“I feel sorry if you were treated in an impolite way. But I hope you will show some understanding as many of my officers worked more than 30 hours like you guys. It is from my heart,” he said.
The Hong Kong Police Force’s livestream of the press briefing was flooded with comments like “shame on the Hong Kong Police,” and “stop shooting children.”
Others posted a widely-shared photograph of a police officer in riot gear holding a brick. The image has since been immortalized as a WhatsApp sticker.
New WhatsApp sticker – you motherfxxking reporter pic.twitter.com/u9EUT5dPCV
— Kris Cheng (@krislc) June 13, 2019
Some even went as far as claiming police used members of the People’s Liberation Army to help crack down on protesters — a claim that Lo says was not true. One person accused the police of trying to “act as if they are John Wayne in a b grade movie and want to appear ‘tough’ in front of the Press.”