, HONG KONG, Sep 13 – Hundreds of journalists protested in Hong Kong on Sunday over alleged police brutality towards three of their colleagues covering syringe attacks in China’s restive Xinjiang region.
Around 700 people, wearing black and holding placards, held a march to call on the Xinjiang government to apologise to the reporters and demanded Beijing move to stop media repression.
On September 4, TVB reporter Lam Tsz-ho, his cameraman Lau Wing-chuen, and Now TV cameraman Lam Chun-wai were reportedly tied up, beaten and detained by police while covering protests in Urumqi that erupted after a spate of needle attacks in the city.
At a press conference a few days after the incident, Xinjiang government spokeswoman Hou Hanmin voiced regret but blamed journalists for inciting unrest.
Mak Yin-ting, chairwoman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), said media workers were angry over the "outrageous and blatantly false" allegations against the journalists.
"This is a violent trampling on press freedom," she said.
"It is not a single incident. Even last year, lots of our journalists were beaten while reporting in China. The situation is getting worse now."
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong, which co-organised the protest, said Beijing should conduct a full and impartial investigation into the affair and publish an uncensored report of its findings.
"It is the first time the entire spectrum of the Hong Kong society, including senior government officials and National People’s Congress delegates, have condemned such treatment of reporters," the club’s president Tom Mitchell told AFP.
"I think, as a result, the Central Government will take notice."
The protesters, who included some of the territory’s pro-democracy politicians, marched to the Central Government Liaison Office and tied red ribbons at the entrance.
Pro-Beijing political parties were not represented at the march but have voiced condemnation of the Xinjiang authorities over the incident.
Local delegates to the National People’s Congress have urged Beijing to investigate the matter.
In August, Chinese authorities detained two Hong Kong NOW TV journalists covering the trial of rights activist Tan Zuoren, who had investigated the collapse of schools in the Sichuan earthquake.
The broadcaster said police searched their hotel rooms in Sichuan’s capital Chengdu for seven hours after claiming they had received reports that the pair were in possession of illegal drugs. No drugs were found and the journalists were freed.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association has accused the mainland police of using the search for drugs as an excuse to keep the journalists from their work.
Hong Kong, which was returned to Chinese rule in 1997, continues to regard freedom of the press as a cornerstone of society.