Hong Kong journalist arrives in court over press freedom fears

Choy Yuk-Ling, a reporter affiliated with Hong Kong's public broadcaster RTHK, arrives at a court over charges that she improperly obtained personal data while reporting an incident on July 21, 2019 from last year's protests, in Hong Kong

On Tuesday, a Hong Kong journalist arrived in court on a charge of making a false statement to collect data for a documentary on the police’s handling of a mob attack, in a case that has provoked concern over press freedom in Hong Kong.

Bao Choy, 37, a freelance producer with local broadcaster RTHK, was arrested last week to connect data on vehicle registrations she used for the investigative documentary.

The piece examined the police force’s response to the Yuen Long district’s attack in July 2019 when more than 100 men in white T-shirts wielding sticks and poles attacked pro-democracy protesters, journalists, and bystanders at a train station.

RTHK obtained data on the ownership of some cars that were seen in video footage on the night of the attack in a bid to trace those behind the assault and highlight the police’s alleged slow response. According to a charge sheet, Bao made false statements when seeking access to the data.

The police were severely criticized at the time for what pro-democracy activists and human rights groups described as a slack response, with some accusing the authorities of colluding with triad gangsters.

Police have rejected the claims and said their slow response was due to protests elsewhere in the city that drained resources that night.

“I understand this incident is no longer a personal matter but a matter related to the public interest and press freedom in Hong Kong,” Bao said outside the court. “I truly believe I will not walk alone.”

Supporters hugged Bao as she left the court. Her case was adjourned to Jan. 14.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has rejected criticism the arrest represents a crackdown on press freedom in the former British colony.

Hong Kong was forced to return to Chinese rule in 1997 under one country, two systems agreement that promised it wide-ranging freedoms unavailable on the Communist Party-ruled mainland.

Last year, the protests were fuelled by perceptions that Beijing was tightening its grip on those freedoms, which authorities have denied.

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