Hong Kong Police Charge Journalist Leader With Obstruction

From a Wall Street Journal story by Dan Strumpf headlined “Hong Kong Police Charge Journalist Group Leader With Obstruction”:

HONG KONG—Police charged the head of Hong Kong’s largest journalist group with obstructing police officers, the highest-profile prosecution of a press worker in recent months following a sustained crackdown on the city’s pro-democracy media.

The charge against Ronson Chan, chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, comes about two weeks after his arrest while covering a meeting of owners of a housing estate in the northern Hong Kong neighborhood of Mong Kok.

Police at the time accused Mr. Chan of obstructing officers and disorderly conduct, and said he was uncooperative and refused to provide his identification when approached by officers. The charge carries a maximum prison term of two years.

Mr. Chan, deputy assignment editor at independent news outlet Channel C, is due to leave Hong Kong for the U.K. at the end of the month to begin a journalism fellowship through the Reuters Institute at Oxford University.

Mr. Chan was previously an editor at the popular pro-democracy news site Stand News, an outlet shut down following a police raid of its newsroom in December and the arrests of seven people linked to the site. Mr. Chan wasn’t among those arrested.

Mr. Chan’s case is due to be heard at a Hong Kong magistrates’ court on Thursday, police said. Mr. Chan said that he was discussing the charge with his lawyer, and said police didn’t take his passport. In a video posted to Channel C’s YouTube page, Mr. Chan said he didn’t know when asked whether he thought police were trying to prevent him from leaving Hong Kong and declined to comment further.

He also criticized his initial arrest, saying that he would not have been arrested for similar conduct even in mainland China.

The charge against Mr. Chan comes as the journalists’ association and other media groups face growing pressure in the wake of the 2020 National Security Law. The law was imposed by Beijing to bring order to the city following a wave of sometimes-violent pro-democracy protests the year before, but rights groups have said it has been used as a tool to squash free speech and close opposition media outlets.

The law brought a clampdown on the city’s pro-democracy media, including the shutdowns of Stand News and Apple Daily, the popular pro-democracy newspaper founded by media mogul Jimmy Lai. The news outlet Citizen News voluntarily ceased operations in January shortly after the raid of Stand News.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association has repeatedly clashed with police as it voiced opposition to the city’s media crackdown. The group has also faced attacks by the city’s pro-Beijing press and Hong Kong’s trade union registry has sought additional information about the association’s activities.

Another journalist group in the city, Hong Kong’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club, voted earlier this year to scrap a prominent journalism award after judges voted to give multiple citations to Stand News. The club said that proceeding with the award could violate the law.

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