Interview: 'I Kept Wanting to Stay And Do a Bit More'

An award-winning journalist who investigated police violence during the 2019 protest movement flees to the democratic island of Taiwan.
2021-05-06
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Interview: 'I Kept Wanting to Stay And Do a Bit More' Hong Kong journalist Wu Gin, winner of the Human Rights Press Award, is shown in an undated photo.
RFA

Wu Gin, a Hong Kong journalist who recently won a Human Rights Press Award for writing about a witness to a police attack on civilians during the 2019 protest movement, has fled to the democratic island of Taiwan.

His winning article was based on an interview with someone who was inside Prince Edward MTR station on the night of Aug. 31, 2019, when police in full riot gear were filmed charging onto trains and beating up unarmed and cowering passengers -- some of whom were wearing the black of the protest movement.

The authorities have dismissed as "rumors" unconfirmed reports of deaths on that night. His eyewitness didn't see anyone die, but testified that there were definitely savage and bloody beatings, with victims denied prompt medical attention.

Wu, 23, whose DBChannel used social media to publish cutting-edge journalism, said he regarded his Merit in the Human Rights Press Awards with a certain sense of irony.

"It is ironic, because I actually have more human rights [than Hong Kong journalists] since winning the award," he said.

There were a number of factors behind his decision to leave the city of his birth.

Wu said his bank account was recently frozen, and that he had been followed by unidentified personnel since the end of 2020.

A group of 10 police officers visited his home after he interviewed David Missal, a German national expelled from China in 2018 after filming the work of human rights lawyers, he said.

Wu was also followed after he interviewed a former 2019 protester, now overseas, and even his relatives overseas received phone calls from individuals telling them to put pressure on Wu to quit.

"All of that prepared me psychologically to be arrested at some point," he said, adding that journalists can be accused at any time of breaking the national security law imposed on Hong Kong by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from July 1, 2020.

Review of past work

Wu looked over some of his past work, and figured it could garner him up to seven years' imprisonment under the law, which bans public speech that is critical of the Hong Kong authorities or the CCP.

"The case of the 47 [opposition politicians] under the national security law was pretty horrific," Wu said, in an apparent reference to marathon bail hearings in which defendants were stuck in court for days on end.

"I had always thought I would leave, but I kept wanting to stay and do a bit more," he said. "Until the case of the 47."

"That was a real wake-up call for me, and a lot of my friends have now left. I was the only one left out of my circle of friends," Wu said.

"They would all want me to leave, but I was penniless and couldn't afford the plane ticket," he said. Eventually, one friend bought it for him out of concern for Wu's safety.

"So many people have been arrested under the national security law, but nobody cares about them now," he said, citing the case of online radio show host Giggs.

"Ask yourself how many people are really paying attention [to his case] now," Wu said. "Were there long lines outside the court when he appeared for a hearing? No."

"I have been exploring what I can do [from here] to contribute to Hong Kong," he says of his plans for life in Taiwan. "I might do more interviews that would be helpful to Hong Kong."

Wu said he hopes to be worthy of his identity as a Hongkonger, even in exile, and will continue to run his DBChannel journalism platform.

He said he expects more journalists to leave the city in future.

Wu founded DBChannel nearly two years ago. His co-founder Frankie Fung is already in prison.

"There was a point at which DBChannel went bankrupt, and lots of people were encouraging me, saying I should keep going with it," he said.
"A lot of those people are now in prison."

Reported by Fong Tak Ho for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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