Hong Kong journalist in Beijing arrested, hurt on the job

HONG KONG (AFP) - A Hong Kong journalist was arrested and left injured while trying to interview a human rights lawyer in Beijing Wednesday (May 16), the second violent incident against the city's reporters in China within a week.

TV footage showed police bundling cameraman Chui Chun Ming to the ground and dragging him into a van.

Chui, who is from Hong Kong and works for the city's Now TV channel but is based in Beijing, was released hours later after signing a letter of remorse.

Reporters from outside mainland China including those from semi-autonomous Hong Kong are usually given a much freer rein than domestic journalists, who have little opportunity to air their views in a country dominated by state media.

Now TV expressed "extreme anger" over the "unreasonable and violent obstruction during their lawful reporting in Beijing".

The incident came four days after another Hong Kong journalist was kicked and beaten by two men while covering the tenth anniversary of a devastating earthquake in Sichuan.

The men claimed they were "ordinary people" but local residents said they were linked to the government, according to Hong Kong media.

Wednesday's footage showed police obstructing Chui and asking to see his press pass as he attempted to reach a hearing at the Beijing Lawyers Association.

The hearing was to decide whether human rights lawyer Xie Yan Yi, who Chui was trying to interview, should have his licence revoked, according to Now TV.

Xie was one of the lawyers arrested in Beijing's "709 crackdown" of 2015, which marked the largest ever clampdown on the legal profession in China.

When Chui asked police to return his press pass after inspection several officers forced him to the ground, where two plainclothes men pinned his arms behind his back and pushed his head down.

He was then handcuffed and put in the van, with Xie also taken away in a police car.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association urged China to stop "uncivilised acts and suppression" of reporting work. The group handed a joint letter signed by local media to China's liaison office in the city on Wednesday.

The Foreign Correspondents' Club of China also called for "an immediate end to violence against journalists in China".

But Hong Kong officials refused to condemn police actions when pressed by reporters, saying that they needed to "establish the facts".

Chief secretary Matthew Cheung said the Hong Kong government was "very concerned" about the safety of the city's reporters carrying out their duties "anytime, anywhere".

Chui was held for four hours then released to hospital to check injuries to his forehead, wrists and knees.

Now TV said he was requested to sign a letter of remorse to admit that he had displayed a "radical reaction" and was "interfering with a public function" before he was released.

A BBC team was also attacked last year by a large group of men as they tried to interview a Chinese woman petitioning the government.