Hong Kong police admitted on Friday it was inappropriate for an officer to display a reporter’s ID card in front of a live-streaming camera during a protest a day earlier, and pledged to cooperate with the privacy watchdog’s investigation.
“There was something inappropriate about the police officer who was responsible for stopping and searching [the reporter],” Chief Superintendent Kenneth Kwok Ka-chuen of the police public relations branch said at the force’s regular briefing.
“Police will actively look into the incident and will also cooperate with the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data when needed.”
Kwok would not say whether the officer in question, who was still on duty, had broken the law.
On Friday morning, Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data Stephen Wong Kai-yi said his office had not yet received a complaint, but would “launch a proactive investigation” after what he called “prima facie evidence” the law had been broken.
Wong was responding after two journalists’ groups in the city condemned the officer’s actions and claimed he had effectively doxxed Stand News reporter Ronson Chan.
The incident happened on Thursday inside a shopping centre in Tai Po, which police had entered to clear a group of black-clad protesters. Chan, who was live-streaming the operation with a camera, asked whether some masked men armed with batons were police officers.
“These officers are wearing no warrant cards and you cannot tell who they are,” Chan was heard saying in a video published by Stand News.
One of the masked men then responded: “There is no identification, so I’m not police.”
Chan was then taken aside by other officers and asked to present his press cards and Hong Kong ID card.
During the check, another masked officer held Chan’s ID card in front of his camera, which was still live-streaming. For about 40 seconds, Chan’s name, ID card number and date of birth were visible to the about 10,000 viewers.
Chan said the officer could have violated the city’s privacy laws, but the officer blamed the reporter for keeping the camera rolling.
Speaking after the incident, Chan alleged that it was the officer who told him to film the inspection.
“After I pointed the camera towards him, he placed my ID card front and centre before the camera,” Chan said.
He said he planned to file complaints with the watchdog and the police force.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association and the Hong Kong Press Photographers Association said in a joint statement on Thursday that the officer had deliberately shown the reporter’s ID card on camera.
“To make the reporter’s personal information public … is no different from doxxing,” they said.
Also at Friday’s briefing, Kwok hit out at “fake news” circulating online about the unrest, and called on people to process such information with caution.
“Some members of society have been brainwashed by fake information and fake news online, causing irrational panic,” he said.
“They also fantasise that after being arrested, they will be sent to unknown places, or even killed.”
He cited the case of a young man who reportedly fell from a height near a protest site on Tuesday, who said he “did not want to be disappeared”.
Kwok insisted the force handled arrestees in accordance with the law.
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