Hundreds of people, including journalists, on Sunday staged a protest march in Hong Kong over the alleged police beatings of three local TV news journalists on September 4 while covering the recent unrest in Western China.
Demonstrators rallied outside a city police station before marching to the local offices of China’s central government to demand an official investigation into the incident. The protests were organised by the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA).
The three journalists, who work for the TVB and Now TV channels in Hong Kong, were covering protests by the Han Chinese majority in the troubled city of Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China.
TVB reporter Lam Tsz-ho, his cameraman Lau Wing-chuen and Now TV cameraman Lam Chun-wai have alleged that they were kicked, punched and shoved to the ground by the Chinese police in Urumqi before being detained for over three hours.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong, has strongly condemned the treatment meted of the journalists. Xinjiang authorities, however, have dismissed the allegations as baseless. They said that the three reporters did not have the required permits with them and were duly warned by the police to leave the area but were detained after they failed to do so. The officials in turn accused the three journalists of inciting public unrest.
The HKJA in a declaration published on its website has stated:
We are appalled to learn that the Xinjiang authorities used force and violence to prevent journalists and media workers reporting on matters of public interest in Urumqi. This is violent trampling on press freedom. However, the investigation by Xinjiang authorities blamed the three Hong Kong journalists for inciting unrest in the troubled city of Urumqi on September 4. We are all angered by such outrageous and blatantly false report.
We condemn the investigation in the strongest terms. The journalists were conducting legitimate reporting work that day, and the allegation of inciting public disorder by the relevant Xinjiang authorities is a total fabrication.
The Association has asked the Chinese government to abolish the rules which require journalists to apply for press accreditation before covering news on mainland China outside of Hong Kong.