HONG KONG: The head of Hong Kong’s largest journalist union was found guilty today of obstructing police officers during an incident last year when he did not show them his identification card.
Hong Kong police have broad stop-and-search powers and residents have limited legal recourse to object to an ID check.
Ronson Chan, chair of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, was stopped by two plainclothes police officers last September while on his way to report on a meeting of flat owners at a public housing estate.
Police said they arrested Chan after he did not show his ID card and behaved in an “uncooperative” way, despite multiple warnings.
Chan said he responded by asking the officer for her details and for the reasons for checking his ID.
“The defendant was reckless and obstructed other members of the public … affecting public order,” Judge Leung Ka Kie said in her verdict.
She sentenced the 42-year-old veteran journalist to five days in jail, adding that the punishment should reflect the seriousness of the case.
“The court needs to consider the social background (and) the importance of the public observing rules and order.”
Chan’s lawyer successfully applied for bail and will appeal the court’s decision.
Both Chan and the HKJA have come under criticism from media outlets that answer to Beijing’s liaison office in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.
Police action has often followed such media coverage.
Local tabloid Apple Daily and online news platform StandNews – which Chan worked for – both closed in 2021 after police raided their offices and arrested senior staff.
Newsroom managers were charged with violating the national security law, which Beijing imposed on the city in 2020 after huge protests.
Long an outlier in terms of media freedoms compared with mainland China, Hong Kong has in recent years plummeted down global press freedom rankings.
Press watchdog Reporters Without Borders has described Hong Kong’s media landscape as suffering “an unprecedented setback” since Beijing’s imposition of the national security law.
RSF now ranks the city at 140 out of 180 countries and territories.