Hong Kong Law & Crime Politics & Protest

Hong Kong journalist sues police for damages after alleged assault during 2016 unrest

A journalist formerly with Hong Kong broadsheet Ming Pao took legal action against the police commissioner on Monday over his alleged assault by police officers during the 2016 Mong Kok unrest.

Journalist Lincoln Tang said he was disappointed that the police internal investigation failed to do him justice, and decided to file a personal injury lawsuit before the time limit expired.

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Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

“The amount of compensation is not important to me, and I no longer have any resentment towards the [officers] involved,” Tang wrote in a Facebook post. “But police officers assaulted a journalist while he was reporting the news, threatening the journalist’s personal safety and freedom of the press.”

“This incident cannot just go away. The police should accept responsibility and reflect on their behaviour, and prevent similar situations from happening again.”

Tang was taking photographs on the top level of a parked double-decker bus during the 2016 Lunar New Year protests. The protests were triggered by authorities’ attempts to clear street hawkers in Mong Kok, and resulted in violent clashes between demonstrators and police.

According to Tang, he was ordered by officers to exit the bus, and was pushed to the ground despite being cooperative and having identified himself as a member of the press.

Footage of the incident was captured by Apple Daily, showing the reporter apparently 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 in the clip. Afterwards, Tang required one stitch on the back of his head, and suffered injuries on his hands and legs.

In March 2016, Tang filed a complaint with the Complaints Against Police Office (CAPO) – an internal unit.

Police at the Mong Kok protest. File Photo: Kris Cheng, HKFP.

Police at the Mong Kok protest. File Photo: Kris Cheng, HKFP.

Last July, CAPO found Tang’s complaints to be “not pursuable” and “not fully substantiated.” Tang sought a review of the decision by the monitoring authority Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC), but was told that the review was still pending.

The Ming Pao Staff Association said on Sunday that it fully supported Tang’s lawsuit. It also called on the IPCC to hasten the review process for Tang’s case, and to publicise its decision once it is reached.

The Association had previously described CAPO’s findings as “absurd,” and expressed “anger and strong dissatisfaction.” CAPO’s decision last July was also criticised by the Hong Kong Journalists Association and the Human Rights Monitor.

On Monday afternoon, Tang wrote a separate Facebook post saying the IPCC informed him that it had reviewed his case and will not alter CAPO’s decision.

“CAPO and IPCC spent three years investigating and arrived at this conclusion that runs counter to common sense. I find it incomprehensible and unacceptable,” he wrote.

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In his Sunday statement, Tang added that he had applied for legal aid, but would press on with the lawsuit no matter if the aid was approved.

The limitation period for personal injury lawsuits in Hong Kong is three years from the date when the plaintiff was first injured.

Hong Kong journalist sues police for damages after alleged assault during 2016 unrest