Hong Kong Journalists Decry Police Violence Amid Questions Over Girl's Drowning

Hong Kong residents display US flags at mass protest rally, Oct. 14, 2019.

UPDATED at 4:35 P.M. EDT on 2019-10-15

As anti-government protests in Hong Kong entered their fifth month, journalists on Tuesday hit out at continuing police violence against media workers, as students called for a full inquiry into the drowning death of a 15-year-old girl.

Police detained and beat a driver for Now TV late on Monday night after he was hit on the head by a beanbag bullet, the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) said in a statement on its website.

"The driver said he had repeatedly identified himself but was only released for hospital treatment after two hours of detention," the statement said. "He said he was beaten by police with batons on his head, arms, legs, and had his face being pressed onto the wall."

"Hong Kong Journalists Association strongly condemns the police for the unreasonable detention and alleged violent assault of news media staff," it said, calling for an apology and for a full investigation into the incident.

Now TV reported that the driver sustained injuries to his forehead, arms, legs and hands, as well has having a fractured jaw.

Now News also issued a statement said it deeply regrets that their driver was restrained and taken to the police station even after he identified himself as a media employee.

It strongly condemned police violence and abuse of power in their treatment of the driver, and called for an investigation.

'Hong Kong a police state'

The attacks came after U.S. senator Josh Hawley called on Chief Executive Carrie Lam to resign, saying that Hong Kong is sliding towards becoming a police state.

“I chose the words “police state” purposely – because that is exactly what Hong Kong is becoming. I saw it myself,” he later wrote via Twitter. “If Carrie Lam wants to demonstrate otherwise, here’s an idea: resign”

Lam said Hawley’s comments were "irresponsible" and "totally unfounded."

"I would challenge every politician to ask themselves if the large extent of violent acts and all those petrol bombs and arson and really deadly attacks on policemen happened in their own country, what would they do? What would their policemen do?" Lam told journalists on Tuesday.

Her remarks came as dozens of people paid their respects to Chan Yin-lam, a 15-year-old competitive swimmer who was ruled to have died by drowning after her body was found floating in the sea near Tseung Kwan O last month.

Chan was enrolled on a youth training course at the Hong Kong Design Institute at the time of her death. Police said there were no marks of violence on her body, although it was found naked, and that her death isn't being treated as suspicious.

Calls for investigation

Students at the institute vandalized parts of the building on Monday night after school authorities didn't release all of its CCTV footage of Chan's movements on campus on the night of her death when asked to do so at a meeting of around 1,000 people.

The school said some footage hadn't been released "for privacy reasons," sparking suspicions among the students, who demanded that all of it be released.

A student who asked to be identified by a nickname Black, an apparent reference to the black clothing worn by anti-extradition protesters, said he had watched the footage, and it didn't look as if she had been heading to the waterfront after she left campus.

"In the clip, she only has the clothes she is wearing, no other belongings, nothing," he said. "I think she was heading out [to the subway], not going to the shore."

A fellow student who gave only a nickname Kevin called on the Design Institute to push for further investigations into Chan's movements on the night of her death.

"We don't have the truth yet, and the circumstances of her death are unclear," he said. "The police claim that her death isn't suspicious, and her body has been cremated."

"As a fellow student at the same school, I feel that I have a right to know," Kevin said. "Everyone wants to know."

Chan is known to have attended protests

Chief executive Lam dismissed concerns over Chan's death as rumor-mongering at an anxious time.

"It is easy for rumors to spread at a time of anxiety, when public trust [in the authorities] is at a low ebb," Lam said. "[As in the case of] the death of this unfortunate 15-year-old girl, even though the police have concluded that her death was not suspicious."

The Hong Kong Design Institute suspended classes for three days from Tuesday.

Protesters have repeatedly laid wreaths and other tributes outside Prince Edward MTR station following persistent reports that deaths occurred inside when riot police stormed the station on Aug. 31.

The selective release of surveillance footage from cameras inside the station by the Mass Transit Rail Corp. has done little to assuage public mistrust in the police, who have been repeatedly accused by protesters, medical personnel, and human rights groups of the mistreatment, torture, and sexual abuse of arrestees since protests escalated in early June.

Solidarity from Prague gathering

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz on Tuesday called on Congress to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which will, if passed, require Washington to review Hong Kong's human rights situation annually and to take sanctions against officials linked to rights abuses in the city.

"It incorporates within it legislation that I introduced specifically calling for reevaluating the relationship with Hong Kong in light of China’s human rights abuses," Cruz said in a statement in Hong Kong, on the last day of a trip to the region.

"I’m here to stand with the people of Hong Kong," he said. "I’m here to stand with the protesters in the street."

He said protesters are standing up and demanding that China honor the 1997 handover agreement to protect Hong Kong’s autonomy, human rights,and free speech and to allow fully democratic elections as provided for in the city's mini-constitution, the Basic Law.

In the Czech capital Prague, meanwhile, International Coalition for Democratic Renewal, gathered at the Forum 2000 Conference, a program co-founded in 1996 by the late Czech President Václav Havel, voiced "solidarity with Hong Kong’s fight for their freedoms and rights as the city has found itself engulfed by an unprecedented governance crisis."

“We urge the Government of Hong Kong to meet the demands for democratic governance of Hong Kong people and respect their rights to defend the universal values of human rights and democracy, which is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," said a statement issued by the coalition.

"We are alarmed that President Xi (jinping) has recently threatened that any attempt to 'split China' will 'end in crushed bodies and shattered bone. This indicates that Beijing might not be trying to de-escalate the situation in Hong Kong and will continue to threaten Taiwan’s democracy," the group added, in a reference to recent remarks by Xi that some analysts said presaged a crackdown on the nearly 20-week-old protest movement in Hong Kong.

Reported by Tam Siu-yin and Man Hoi-tsan for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Han Jie for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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