Ronson Chan, head of Hong Kong journalists’ union arrested – Copyright AFP Peter PARKS
According to a police source, the head of the Hong Kong Journalists’ Union was arrested on Wednesday, just weeks before he was about to leave the city to begin an internship abroad.
Ronson Chan, president of the Hong Kong Journalists’ Association (HKJA), was arrested for allegedly obstructing a police officer’s work and rioting in a public place, a police source told AFP.
Channel C, the online news outlet for which Chan works, reported that the veteran reporter was picked up by police officers who asked him to verify his identity while reporting on a meeting of public housing owners.
Chan was due to leave Hong Kong at the end of September for a six-month Reuters Institute fellowship program at Oxford University.
Authorities have used the national security law and colonial-era sedition charges to crack down on dissent in Hong Kong after democratic protests three years ago.
Local media, considered critical of the government, faced a surge in police investigations, and the city plummeted in the global press freedom rankings.
Like many now closed civil society groups and pro-democracy unions, both Chiang and the HKJA have faced repeated criticism from media outlets affiliated with the Beijing Liaison Office in the city.
Police actions often follow such media coverage.
Local tabloid Apple Daily and the online news platform StandNews, which Chan used to work for, were forced to shut down last year after their executives were charged with violating national security, leaving hundreds of journalists out of work.
When Reporters Without Borders (RSF) released its annual press freedom rankings in May, Hong Kong dropped 68 places to 148th in the world.
In the first RSF report in 2002, Hong Kong had some of the freest media in Asia and was ranked 18th in the world.
Earlier this year, the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents Club withdrew Asia’s largest annual human rights award, citing security law risks. This decision caused controversy among many journalists.
The club recently posted a vague statement on freedom of the press on its website.
One of the sentences removed from the statement read: “Faced with unprecedented attacks on the media, never has the role of our club been more important, and our commitment to the cause has never been stronger.”