Head of the Hong Kong Journalists' Association sentenced to jail
Ronson Chan gets five days in jail for obstructing public officials and disturbing the peace in September 2022. For the presiding judge, a fine was not enough. For activists and critics, this is another attack against press freedom and represents an attempt to intimidate journalists.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – A Hong Kong court has sentenced Ronson Chan, chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists' Association (HKJA), to five days in prison for obstructing public officers and disturbing the peace.
Chan was arrested and handcuffed in September 2022 for failing to hand over his identity card, while covering a homeowners’ committee meeting for the online news outlet Channel C.
For activists and critics, the conviction is a further blow to media freedom and another act of repression to silence the media and target dissent.
In the past, Chan spoke out against the arrests of fellow journalists and the extensive use of the infamous National Security Law imposed by mainland China, which de facto snuffed out freedom of information in the former British colony.
At his trial, he pleaded not guilty, saying that he had asked the police to show their warrant cards before handing over his ID, which all Hong Kong residents must carry.
Magistrate Leung Ka-kie upheld the charges, noting that a fine would not reflect the gravity of the offence. He also refused to consider community service since Chan showed no remorse.
He did, however, release Chan on bail (US$ 3,800) after his lawyers said that they would file an appeal.
No date has yet been set for the latter; meanwhile, the journalist cannot leave Hong Kong and had to hand over his travel documents.
Speaking after the hearing, Chan said that he was not surprised by the verdict, but also hoped that journalists could "stand firm" in their task of delivering truthful news to Hong Kong and the world.
The HKJA is one of the last major professional groups to defend fundamental rights and freedom of the press, after China imposed a draconian law on Hong Kong in June 2020.
Some Western governments have criticised the law as repressive, given the freedoms granted to Hong Kong after Britain returned the territory to Chinese rule in 1997.
Chinese and Hong Kong officials say that the law is necessary to bring stability to the city after it was rocked by months of pro-democracy protests in 2019.