Escalating violence at the National Day protests in Hong Kong left multiple journalists injured on Tuesday, with public broadcaster RTHK deciding to pull its English reporting team from frontline coverage for the day.
By Tuesday night, the South China Morning Post and Baptist University’s student reporters were recalled in light of the clashes.
Protesters on Tuesday took to the streets to express their discontent on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Aside from using tear gas, water cannon and pepper spray, Hong Kong police also fired live ammunition at a protester for the first time. Protesters, in turn, threw Molotov cocktails and bricks, set makeshifts barricades alight and vandalised certain stores and MTR station exits.
Public broadcaster RTHK said that one of its journalists was hit in the head with “some kind of projectile” on Tuesday afternoon in Sham Shui Po. The station’s English News and Current Affairs unit then decided to halt its on-the-ground coverage for the day, as it was “no longer safe for its reporters to be on the streets.”
Later on Tuesday, a videojournalist was struck in the leg by a rubber bullet while working near Prince Edward MTR station. Both men needed receive medical treatment at a hospital.
RTHK said it “strongly condemns violence targeting news reporters,” and called for all parties to exercise restraint.
Separately, Stand News reported that at least six of its staff had been hurt. In Causeway Bay, one was struck in the right side of his face by what was suspected to be a sponge round. In another case, a police officer put his hand around a reporter’s neck, the news organisation said.
Apple Daily reported that one of its reporters was hit in the stomach by a tear gas submunition during police operations in Wan Chai.
And at around 2pm on Tuesday, multiple news outlets reported that someone threw corrosive liquid on reporters and police officers at a protest in Tuen Mun. Officers were in the middle of subduing protesters when an HK01 reporter felt burning pain on her arm, and discovered blisters on her arm, as well as chemical burns on her arms and face.
Oriental Daily reported that protesters had loaded drain cleaner into a toy water blaster, and sprayed it towards police. Other outlets said the source of the corrosive liquid was unclear.
The corrosive liquid affected a group of people, including at least one TVB employee. The station issued a statement condemning “violent acts” which seriously affected the personal safety and the reporting work of journalists.
‘Lucky to be alive’
On Sunday, Indonesian journalist Veby Indah made headlines after she was shot in the face by police projectile on a bridge near Wan Chai MTR station. Her lawyer Michael Vidler said on Monday that she will file criminal complaints against the Commissioner of Police and the officer responsible, as well as launching a civil suit to seek compensation.
“[Veby] is lucky to be alive and but for her protective goggles, she would definitely have been blinded. At present, very substantial visual impairment still remains a possibility,” Vidler said.
“This projectile was fired at a potentially lethal distance and from a low angle where the impact could only be on the upper body or head. This was in breach of manufacturer guidelines, any conceivable professional instruction and international norms,” he said, noting that the projectile was fired from a distance of approximately 12 metres.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association and the Foreign Correspondents’ Club have each issued statements expressing concern over the safety of journalists covering the protest.
Protests in Hong Kong have escalated in the lead up to the National Day on October 1, with clashes also breaking out in the preceding weekend. On Tuesday, the city was on near-lockdown as the public railway transit system closed over half of its stations. Skirmishes between police and protesters were especially fierce in neighbourhoods such as Tuen Mun, Wan Chai, Tsuen Wan and Sham Shui Po.
In the past three months, Hongkongers have held large-scale protests against a bill that would have enabled extraditions to China, but events have sometimes evolved into violent displays of dissent over Beijing’s encroachment, democracy and alleged police brutality.
Though the bill has been withdrawn, demonstrators are demanding a fully independent probe into police behaviour, amnesty for those arrested, universal suffrage and a halt to the characterisation of protests as “riots.”
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