05/12/2020, 14.15
HONG KONG
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Police accused of arresting a 12-year-old student journalist in Mong Kok

Law enforcement officers accuse pro-democracy protesters of pretending to be reporters. Protests in the shopping district have been the most impressive since the outbreak of the pandemic. For Journalists’ associations, the right to report cannot be repressed. Police violence will only cause more resistance.

 

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Hong Kong police have come under fire after a 12-year-old student journalist was detained at a pro-democracy rally on Sunday in Mong Kok. The student was later released.

On Sunday, police arrested a total of 230 people, including a Democratic Party lawmaker, accusing some protesters, mostly high school students, of pretending to be reporters to hamper their operations.

The protest in Mong Kok, on Mother's Day, was the largest since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in January.

For months, Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, and her government have been the target of pro-democracy protesters who accuse them of letting mainland China interfere in local affairs.

Protests began in June 2019 in opposition to a proposed extradition bill (later withdrawn), subsequently turning into a broader movement in favour of democratic freedoms.

Anti-government protests spawned many online student newspapers. As a result, pro-Beijing members of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo) have called on the government to introduce a press accreditation system to prevent phoney reporters from participating in protests.

Journalists’ associations are against such a proposal, saying that it would violate freedom of speech and freedom of the press guaranteed under Hong Kong’s Basic Law, which underpins the territory’s autonomy vis-à-vis China.

In their view, students have the right to create their own newspapers and tell what happens during protests.

Although student journalists must understand the risks they face, they should not be demonised. The real issue is violent police behaviour towards the media.

Law enforcement claim that their tactics are justified because they prevent large gatherings, currently banned to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Newspapers and television organisations instead accuse police of abuse of power in Mong Kok, using pepper spray, insulting reporters and searching their bags.

Various charges were used to carry out mass arrests in the shopping district: ban on gatherings, disturbing the peace, and weapon possession.

Many believe that police repression, like the constant pressure from Beijing, will have a boomerang effect, generating more resistance among protesters.

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