The staff association at Hong Kong broadsheet Ming Pao has decried the results of a police investigation after a complaint alleging that officers assaulted its reporter during the 2016 Mong Kok unrest was found to be “not pursuable” and “not fully substantiated.”
The protests during Lunar New Year in 2016 were triggered by the clearing of street hawkers. The reporter in question was taking photographs on the top level of a parked double-decker bus during the unrest.
He told Apple Daily at the time that police ordered the reporters out of the vehicle, and that he identified himself by showing his press card and cooperated with the demands. However, upon leaving the bus, he was pushed onto the ground by police.
Footage of the incident was captured by Apple Daily, showing the reporter being pushed down by officers with shields, then being kicked and beaten with batons for around 15 seconds. He can be heard shouting continuously that he was a journalist. Afterwards, the reporter required one stitch on the back of his head, and suffered injuries on his hands and legs.
The case was referred to the Complaints Against Police Office – an internal unit – with the reporter giving evidence in March 2016.
The Ming Pao Staff Association expressed “anger and strong dissatisfaction” at the results in a statement on Monday, and stated that it would request a review of the decision.
It said the findings were “absurd” as the incident was clearly recorded in media footage. “Did the police expend all efforts to find the officers involved in the reporter’s assault, or did it handle the incident with a lenient attitude?”
According to details of the complaint posted by Ming Pao, the reporter – who is no longer with the newspaper – made three allegations against the police. He alleged that two to three officers grabbed him by the neck in the staircase of the bus and pushed him out of the vehicle – a claim found to be “not pursuable” due to insufficient evidence to prove the complaint and to verify the officers’ identity.
Another claim – that the reporter was kicked and beaten with hard objects by 6-8 officers – was classified as “not fully substantiated.” However, the response stated that the police would “record the incident and notify the relevant members to take appropriate disciplinary action.”
His allegation that the police were not facilitating the work of reporters in accordance with standard procedure was also classified as “not pursuable” due to insufficient evidence.
Responding to the results, the reporter told Apple Daily that the incident was captured by multiple media outlets. He said he found the results hard to understand and unacceptable, and that he would request a review along with considering other legal channels.
Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor also responded in a statement, saying the finding that the assault was “not fully substantiated” – but that police would take disciplinary action – were inconsistent and “invites suspicion.”
Hong Kong Journalists Association’s Chair Chris Yeung said the investigation results were hard to accept, and said the reasoning given contradicts itself.
“The police are playing with words… to confuse the public, and let the matter blow over without definite results,” he told Apple Daily.
In a response to HKFP, the police said the Complaints Against Police Office sent a response to the complainant on Friday notifying him of the investigation results. It said the complainant can request a review within 30 days if he is not satisfied with the results.