Hong Kong journalist appears in court amid fears over press freedom

·2 min read
Choy Yuk-Ling arrives at a court in Hong Kong

By Jessie Pang

HONG KONG (Reuters) - A Hong Kong journalist appeared in court on Tuesday on a charge of making a false statement to obtain data for a documentary on the police's handling of a mob attack, in a case that has stoked concern over press freedom in the Chinese-ruled city.

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

The piece examined the police force's response to the attack in Yuen Long district 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 chargesheet, Bao made false statements when seeking access to the data.

The police were severely criticised 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 in part 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 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 returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a one country, two systems agreement that promised it wide-ranging freedoms unavailable on the Communist Party-ruled mainland.

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

(Reporting By Jessie Pang; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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