HONG KONG (DPA) - A female news producer subverted a Hong Kong police press conference on Monday (Oct 28) by interrupting it to deliver a statement blasting officers' increasingly violent treatment of journalists over the past five months of unbroken anti-government protests.
The unexpected act of protest followed Sunday's rally in support of journalists, which was broken up by police wielding tear gas and rubber bullets.
A freelance photojournalist named May James was arrested while photographing the clashes, and two local news reporters were shot with non-lethal bullets believed to be beanbag rounds during dispersal operations.
Producer Amy Ip berated the officers conducting the conference for the force's violent behaviour and obstruction of press freedoms. Ms Ip shone a torch directly at the officers, exclaiming: "This is how you have treated us with your torches, so that we can't see the evil deeds that you are doing."
The officers left the scene, then returned shortly afterwards to reconvene the conference after Ms Ip and a number of other journalists who voiced support of her protest left the premises.
Earlier in the day, the Foreign Correspondents' Club (FCC) issued a statement condemning Ms James' arrest, stating that she spent the night in detention after she was forced to remove her respirator and was searched by police despite her press credentials.
The FCC stressed the importance of an independent investigation into police conduct, saying that such arrests "undermine Hong Kong's reputation as a place where the media can work freely, without harassment or intimidation".
Superintendent Jon Tse said that James was arrested because she originally refused to present her press credentials, and insisted that police show their warrant card, which Mr Tse called "unreasonable" since the officers were in uniform.
Mr Tse said that instances of protesters posing as reporters have complicated the force's interaction with the press, adding that police "certainly do not target genuine reporters intentionally".
However, a video posted by the Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) shows Ms James presenting what appears to be press credentials to a group of around 10 police officers. Local Broadcaster RTHK's staff union also responded to the excessive use of force against journalists, saying that police behaviour "deliberately hindered the media from recording the facts and seriously infringed on the freedom of the press".
The protests first broke out over a now-defunct extradition Bill that would have allowed Hong Kong residents to be extradited to China, but the demands of the movement have grown to include universal suffrage and an independent inquiry into police violence.