Several journalists reported that they were harassed by surveillance from unidentified persons. Some of them were court reporters who covered the Stand News trial. (The non-profit Stand News was raided by police and ultimately forced to shut down its former chief editor is facing prosecution for the publication of 17 allegedly seditious articles.)
According to the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), the journalists in question worked for different organisations. Reportedly there were two unknown men who loitered outside of the press waiting room. One of them stayed there for over an hour and attempted to pursue the journalists as they left the courtroom.
Within days of that incident, a reporter for Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) (a leading independent news outlet) was also followed from her home to her workplace for over an hour by two men with earpieces. Despite efforts to get on and off different trains, the two men persisted in tailing the reporter during morning rush hour. When one of the men was confronted and questioned by the reporter, he remained silent under his mask.
The HKJA condemned the harassment and urged the police to clarify whether a law enforcement agent was involved. However, instead of providing clarification, the police simply blasted the HKJA for making “unverified speculations” that “could misguide people”. The police said that any worried journalists should file a police report. The Chief Executive, John Lee, also refused to comment on the incidents and dismissed the complaints as mere “subjective speculations”.
The incidents show a deeply worrying trend that Hong Kong journalists are not only facing arbitrary legal risks under the NSL, but also physical threats where the Hong Kong authorities turn a blind eye and fail to properly investigate them. No journalists should work under fear; and we deplore the Hong Kong authorities’ contemptuous attitude towards press freedom.
(This story originally appeared in the March-April 2023 edition of our newsletter).