The chairman of Hong Kong’s top journalism group was found guilty of obstructing a police officer on Monday in a court case that has fueled concerns about the city’s declining press freedom.
Ronson Chan, president of the Hong Kong Association of Journalists and a reporter for online news station Channel C, was arrested last September while on his way to a reporting assignment. He was accused of refusing to show the plainclothes officer his ID upon request.
Chan’s arrest sparked concerns about the erosion of media freedom in Hong Kong after Beijing imposed a national security law to crush dissent following the city’s mass pro-democracy protests in 2019. The former British colony has vowed to uphold Western type of its civil liberties for 50 years when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
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Judge Leung Ka-kie ruled on Monday that Chan had deliberately prevented the officer from carrying out her duty and failed to produce his identification in time. He continued to ask the officer questions “recklessly,” he said.
He will be sentenced at a later date and could face a maximum sentence of two years in prison.
Speaking to reporters before the hearing, Chan said he was calm.
“No matter what the outcome is, it’s not the end of the day,” he said.
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In the crackdown following the 2019 protests, two vocal media outlets – Apple Daily and Stand News – were forced to close and some of their top managers have been prosecuted. Two former top editors at Stand News, where Chan worked, were tried for sedition. A verdict is scheduled for November.
Pro-Beijing media attacked the association and Chan, calling the professional group an anti-China political tool in their reporting.
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Hong Kong, once considered a bastion of media freedom in Asia, was ranked 140th out of 180 countries and territories in the latest Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index. The organization said the city has experienced an “unprecedented setback” since 2020, when the security law was imposed.
However, authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong said the law helped restore stability to the city after anti-government protests in 2019.