Mon, 21 Oct 2019

Foreign correspondents working in Hong Kong staged a silent protest on Wednesday over continuing violence against journalists covering the anti-extradition movement, as the city's racing body took the unprecedented step of canceling Wednesday's race meeting in Happy Valley.Around a dozen members gathered outside the city's Foreign Correspondents' Club (FCC) carrying banners that read: "Yes to press freedom, no to violence against journalists.""The FCC is gravely concerned about the growing number of incidents of police violence against journalists who are doing their job covering the protests in Hong Kong," club president Jodi Schneider said in a statement."We are holding a silent protest against this violence and any attempts to interfere with media coverage," Scheider said."We are also calling for press freedom - for support of our right as journalists to cover the protests; a right provided us under Hong Kong law," she added.The protest came as the Hong Kong Jockey Club canceled Wednesday night's races after protesters planned to gather there, focusing on Hong Kong Bet, a horse co-owned by pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho, whom many have blamed for triad-linked attacks on train passengers in Yuen Long on July 21."The race meeting at Happy Valley Racecourse tonight has been cancelled in view of the imminent threat to the safety of racegoers, jockeys and employees, and to the welfare of racehorses," the Jockey Club said in a statement"Our concerns are tied to potential social unrest in the vicinity tonight, the very real threat of a disturbance or possible violence," the statement said.Seeking answers

Ho has also called for disciplinary action against any school children who support the ongoing protests, government broadcaster RTHK reported.Meanwhile, the FCC is also calling for an independent investigation into all forms of violence and intimidation directed at journalists since the start of the protests in June, and has called for a public response from the Commissioner of Police."We want ... answers from the authorities," Schneider said.The Hong Kong Journalists' Association (HKJA), which has repeatedly detailed complaints made by its members about police violence and restricted access to reporting opportunities, said there is a strong current of opinion among pro-Beijing and pro-police commentators that blames the media for supporting and even aiding the anti extradition movement.HKJA president Chris Yeung said the psychological stress on journalists from Hong Kong is very intense."Why are we so very worried? Because the whole working environment for journalists seems to be getting worse and worse," Yeung said. "On the one hand, we have the police using violence to obstruct reporters, and on the other, some [pro-China] politicians are being very rude to them.""There is also online abuse, not just bullying [and doxxing] but also threats, which we have seen in a number of cases," he said. "It seems there is an escalating force that is intent on cutting off and suppressing the activities of the media, using various channels.""This is a huge threat to the media," Yeung said.

Psychological pressure

Mak Wing-fun, a clinical psychologist working for the police, said police officers and their families are suffering similar online abuse and psychological pressure, however."As the protesters have escalated their use of force, we have seen some negative news reports as well as some fake news appearing online," Mak said. "All of this has added to the psychological pressure on officers.""This has caused ruptures in their personal relationships, and the situation is far worse than it was back in the [2014] Occupy Central movement," she said.Mak said the effects of anti-police sentiment have resulted in extreme psychological pressure for officers' children, after being bullied and called "dog," a word commonly used by protesters to insult the police.Anson Chan, who was head of Hong Kong's civil service during the British colonial administration that ended in 1997 with the handover to China, said in a BBC interview that chief executive Carrie Lam's recent pledge to formally withdraw planned amendments to the city's extradition laws was unlikely to resolve anything, because of a number of "deep-seated" reasons for the movement.Protests that erupted in June in Hong Kong against plans by the city's government to allow extradition to mainland China have grown into a broader movement, even after Lam pledged to scrap the plan.The protesters' five key demands are: the formal withdrawal of planned amendments to extradition laws; an amnesty for arrested protesters; an end to the description of protesters as rioters; an independent inquiry into police abuse of power; and fully democratic elections.Reported by Lau Siu-fung and Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Gao Feng for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

Copyright © 1998-2018, RFA. Published with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036

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