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Hong Kong Police Force ‘failing to control officers’ adrenaline’

Hong Kong’s riot police officers internally are being warned that there will be consequences to their actions of excessive force, and collectively there is a failure on the front lines of the protests to control officers’ adrenaline.

This was the opinion of Clement Lai, a 22-year veteran of the Hong Kong police force, and founder of the Clement Shield Limited private security firm. He was part of a panel discussing police tactics and behaviour over the course of the last seven months of protests in the city. He was joined by Amnesty International’s Doriane Lau, and Dr. Lawrence Ka-ki Ho, an assistant professor in the Department of Social Sciences at The Education University of Hong Kong and leading expert on the Hong Kong police. Representatives of the Hong Kong Police Force declined the FCC’s invitation to join the panel.

Lai, a former police commander, said that the Hong Kong Police Force was operating in an ever-changing environment and was now employing an “early intervention strategy” that, while effective, had disadvantages.

Calling for an independent investigation into the conduct of the police, Lau said there was evidence of human rights abuses including “something that can amount to torture”. She added that the current system of policing was not working.

Dr. Ho said the Hong Kong Police Force has, since colonial times, morphed into a paramilitary police force and that it was easy for them to find escape clauses for their actions. He added that since the 2001 terror attacks on the United States, police globally had become more militarised.

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Hong Kong protests will continue despite district council gains, panel agrees

Hongkongers will “come out and strike again” to show their dissatisfaction at the governance of the city, a panel of political experts agreed.

Discussing the next steps for Hong Kong following November’s historic district elections, which delivered a landslide for pro-democracy candidates, guest speakers Lo Kin-hei, Derek Yuen, and Christine Fong agreed the vote had been a referendum on how Carrie Lam’s government was functioning. Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp won 393 – or almost nine of 10 – of the 452 seats.

Lo Kin-hei, Chairperson for the Southern District Council, warned that the appointment of Luo Huining as Executive Director of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in Hong Kong would likely keep the protests that have gripped the city since last June going.

Hong Kong-born-and-based scholar and author, Derek Yuen, told the January 14 club lunch that he believed One Country, Two Systems – Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – was now “broken”, with only the Rule of Law remaining intact.

Christine Fong, District Council member in the Sai Kung District, added that although she believes in the right to protest – she herself attended the first marches in June 2019 – she hoped that the violence would stop to enable the city’s economy to recover.

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What next for Hong Kong and China’s growing civil society movement?

China will likely promulgate Article 23 in Hong Kong via an interpretation of the Basic Law rather than through the Legislative Council, predicts a veteran China watcher.

Professor Willy Lam at the FCC. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC Professor Willy Lam at the FCC. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

Professor Willy Wo-Lap Lam, adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Centre for China Studies and author of a new book, The Fight for China’s Future: Civil Society vs. the Chinese Communist Party, said this was one of the routes Chinese President Xi Jinping may choose to restore order in Hong Kong, where protests have gripped the city since June. He said the Chinese Communist Party saw the unrest as a Black Swan Event – a colour revolution which was a collusion between anti-Beijing forces within China and hostile foreign forces such as the US. President Xi has in the recent past warned his party of the danger of Black Swan Events.

Describing Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, as a “lame duck”, Prof Lam also predicted that the CCP was unlikely to undermine her authority further by sacking her, and so would keep her in post while they chose a successor before she stood down.

Guests at the November 5 club lunch were taken through a presentation highlighting China’s growing civil society movement, which has seen army veterans, workers and students protest throughout the country.

Video and photojournalists reveal life on the frontline of the Hong Kong protests

A panel of experienced video and photojournalists shared their on-the-ground experiences of covering the ongoing Hong Kong protests at a discussion on October 15.

L-R: Anthony Kwan, May James, Chieu Luu, Aleksander Solum, and moderator Shibani Mahtani. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC L-R: Anthony Kwan, May James, Chieu Luu, Aleksander Solum, and moderator Shibani Mahtani. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

The panelists spoke amid increasing concern over the safety of the media covering the protests, after an Indonesian photographer was left blind in one eye from a police bean bag round, and a NowTV driver was allegedly attacked by police and left with injuries.

Photographers May James, who has been covering the protests for a variety of local and international outlets including Hong Kong Free Press and AFP; and Anthony Kwan, a prize-winning photojournalist who has been covering the protests over the past months primarily for Getty, both agreed that arguing with the police during protests was not advisable.

Joining them on the panel were Chieu Luu, video journalist for South China Morning Post; and Aleksander Solum, a senior video journalist at Reuters Video News. The two men agreed that, when recording while tensions are running high, the safety of their teams remains the top priority.

I’m in charge of keeping my team safe – no shot is worth one of my team members getting hurt,” Chieu said.

Possibility of China using military force in Hong Kong “quite low” says expert in Chinese politics

China’s Communist Party has learned from the past and wants to resolve conflicts without force, a tactic it is currently trying with regards to the current unrest in Hong Kong, according to an expert in Chinese politics.

Professor Yan Xiaojun, Associate Professor in Politics and Public Administration at the University of Hong Kong, said that China wants to uphold One Country, Two Systems and believes that the city’s government and police were managing the crisis adequately. He said the likelihood of China using military force in Hong Kong was “quite low”.

Prof Yan appeared at the FCC on October 3 to reflect on 70 years of the People’s Republic of China. He said China had transformed from one of the poorest nations into one of the strongest over the last seven decades because the Communist Party had learned lessons from its own history and that of the collapsed Soviet Union.

He said the party understood it had to continue to learn in order to survive.

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How fake news is shaping the Hong Kong protests

The phenomenon of fake news and the spreading of disinformation have increased sharply since the Hong Kong protests began, with conspiracy theories in particular taking off in recent months.

These were the observations offered by three experts who have been covering the protests since June. They were taking part in the September 12 panel on the topic.

L-R: Host Eric Wishart, Selina Cheng, Rachel Blundy, and Masato Kajimoto. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC L-R: Host Eric Wishart, Selina Cheng, Rachel Blundy, and Masato Kajimoto. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

Rachel Blundy, a fact-checker for Agence France-Presse, revealed how her team analyses claims being made on social media and investigates them to debunk fake news. Joining her on the panel was HK01’s Selina Cheng, who gave examples of fake news stories and how they quickly spread. “If the story sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” she said.

Masato Kajimoto, an assistant professor of practice at the Journalism and Media Studies Centre (JMSC), the University of Hong Kong, discussed China’s propaganda war and its attempts to smear the pro-democracy camp through the spread of fake news. He added that the more polarising the topic is, the easier it is for people to believe misinformation.

The discussion was the latest in the FCC’s series of workshops for journalists covering the ongoing Hong Kong protests. You can find the rest of the series here.

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FCC Statement Condemning Increasing Acts of Violence Against Journalists

FCC Statement Condemning Increasing Acts of Violence Against Journalists

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club strongly condemns the increasing number of incidents involving police violence against journalists covering protests in Hong Kong. Assaults of journalists are becoming more serious, undermining the media’s ability to do their jobs and Hong Kong’s commitment to freedom of the press. 

The FCC expresses grave concern over multiple eyewitness reports and widely circulating video footage that appear to show police officers spraying pepper spray at close range at numerous reporters and photographers on Saturday night around 10:30p.m. on Nathan Road, including spraying at least two journalists directly in the eyes. Accounts appear to show journalists with press identification—clearly marked vests and helmets–in an area with no protesters directly present near the scene. They did not appear to be interfering with police operations.

Hong Kong, September 7 2019. Photo: Hong Kong Journalists Association. Hong Kong, September 7, 2019. Photo: Hong Kong Journalists Association.

These actions by members of the Hong Kong Police Force are unacceptable and constitute a violation of the right under Hong Kong law for journalists to cover protests free of intimidation or violence by authorities.

The repeated and consistent reports of police violence against journalists covering the protests have become too many for the Hong Kong government and the international community to ignore and seem to be increasing in frequency. Given this deteriorating situation, the FCC reiterates its demand that the government follow the advice of numerous prominent Hong Kong organizations, along with civic and political leaders, and establish an independent commission of inquiry to investigate all forms of violence and intimidation directed at journalists since the start of the protests in June. We urge that such investigations be thorough and transparent.

The FCC also calls on the Commissioner of Police to publicly address these worrying reports and to clearly state that the HKPF respects freedom of the press and the right of journalists to cover events, including police operations, unfettered and free of violence and threats.

The FCC regrets that the Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai Chung has failed to respond to its letter to him of August 11 proposing measures that could rebuild confidence between the police and the media, and inviting him to speak at the club.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club stands with the Hong Kong Journalists Association, the Hong Kong Photojournalist Association and with freelance and unaffiliated journalists in condemning acts of violence directed at the media and in demanding the Hong Kong government and police respect Hong Kong’s long tradition of press freedom.

The Hong Kong Protests: An FCC Workshop Series for Journalists

Since June 2019, journalists in Hong Kong have been on the front lines covering what began as anti-extradition bill protests, often dodging tear gas and rubber bullets in the course of their work.

This FCC series of workshops brings together a wide range of experts, from journalists to tech specialists to health professionals, all of whom offer valuable advice for any media covering the protests.

Presentation slides:

Hong Kong Red Cross introduction (PDF)

Hong Kong Red Cross presentation (PDF)

Professor Paul Yip presentation (Slideshare)

Lokman Tsui (PDF)

Fake news panel (PDF)

You can download the Centre of Suicide Research and Prevention’s recommendations on suicide and mental health reporting here.

The Hong Kong Samaritans website can be found here, and the 24/7 hotline number is 2896 0000.

Watch the video series

The Hong Kong Protests: What Next for Hong Kong?

Stevo Stephen: A Workshop on Journalists’ Safety

Sharron Fast: A Workshop on the Legal Risks for Journalists

The Hong Kong Protests and Press Freedom

Lokman Tsui, Assistant Professor: A Workshop on Digital Security

Paul Yip: The Hong Kong Protests – Covering Mental Health and Suicide

Brian Wong: First-Aid and Health Safety

Information Wars – How Fake News and Disinformation Have Been Weaponized in the Hong Kong Protests

From Water Cannons to the Face Mask Ban: Increased Risks in Covering the Hong Kong Protests

Essential First Aid tips for journalists covering the Hong Kong protests

How to treat the effects of tear gas and other protest-related injuries was shared by a member of Hong Kong’s Red Cross at a workshop for journalists.

Brian Wong, senior staff officer for the Hong Kong Red Cross’s First Aid Service Coordination Team, Youth and Volunteer Department, also advised potential first aiders on the treatment of heat exhaustion, cardiac arrest, and bleeding.

He was speaking on September 3 at the latest in the FCC’s series of workshops aimed at journalists covering the ongoing Hong Kong protests.

Due to some technical issues, the talk is in two parts. 

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Is the Sino-British Joint Declaration dead? Two experts give their views

The question of whether the Sino-British Joint Declaration was dead was the topic of debate at a sold-out club lunch on August 29.

Left: Alan Hoo, Chairman of The Basic Law Institute, and, right lecturer at CUHK’s Centre for China Studies, Tim Summers. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC Left: Alan Hoo, Chairman of The Basic Law Institute, and, right lecturer at CUHK’s Centre for China Studies, Tim Summers. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

Guest speakers Alan Hoo, Chairman of The Basic Law Institute, and lecturer at CUHK’s Centre for China Studies, Tim Summers, gave their views on the relevance of the document, drawn up between Britain and China as part of an agreement to hand sovereignty back to China.

Both speakers also gave their take on the current protests gripping Hong Kong, and what they determined to be the next steps to resolving the crisis.

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