Hong Kong court rejects appeal of award-winning reporter
A court in Hong Kong on Monday rejected an appeal by journalist Bao Choy of her conviction for “making false statements” to obtain information for a report about a mob attack on pro-democracy protesters during city-wide unrest in 2019.
The award-winning reporter, also known as Choy Yuk-ling, was found guilty in April 2021 of lying to the government to gain access to vehicle ownership records for her investigation, instead of for transportation-related purposes, as stated in her application for the documents. Choy had been looking into the identities of the perpetrators of the subway attack for a documentary she co-produced for government broadcaster RTHK.
Her conviction, which carried a fine of 6,000 Hong Kong Dollars (U.S.$765), prompted widespread criticism from media watchdogs who called it a blow to Hong Kong’s increasing restrictions on press freedom since the U.K.’s July 1997 handover of the city’s sovereignty to China.
In a statement delivered following Monday’s proceedings, Choy warned that High Court Justice Alex Lee’s rejection of her appeal would “hinder access to free information” in Hong Kong.
“[It] will create obstacles for the press to act as a brake on the abuse of power, and to monitor and hold the powerful accountable,” she added.
‘Journalism is not a crime’
Choy also expressed thanks to those who had offered their encouragement during her legal battles.
“I understand this incident is no longer a personal matter, but a matter related to public interest and press freedom in Hong Kong,” she told supporters, who held placards aloft reading, “Journalism is not a crime.”
“There has been a very strong social understanding, a social norm, that journalists are free to obtain … public information for the sake of public interest,” she said. “There [have] been a lot of scholars, unions, and lawyers, [who] have expressed their concerns and worries on whether the police [are] trying to use the law to suppress press freedom.”
Choy’s documentary, “7.21 Who Owns the Truth,” won the Chinese-language documentary award at the Human Rights Press Awards last year for what the judging panel said had uncovered “the smallest clues, interrogating the powerful without fear or favor.”
While press freedom has been gradually curtailed in Hong Kong since the handover, restrictions have increased significantly in recent years.
In the months after Choy’s conviction, and amid a crackdown on dissent following the 2019 pro-democracy protests, authorities charged Jimmy Lai, the founder of the Apple Daily, with violating China’s National Security Act and two former editors for Stand News with sedition. Both media outlets were forced to close.
Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders ranked Hong Kong 148th out of 180 countries and territories in its 2021 World Press Freedom index, released in May.