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Hong Kong court dismisses petition seeking to label police treatment of scribes during 2019 protests 'unconstitutional'

ANI | Updated: Dec 21, 2020 21:34 IST

Hong Kong [China], December 21 (ANI): Hong Kong's High Court on Monday threw out a bid from the area's oldest journalists' union which sought to formally label the police force's treatment of industry workers during last year's anti-government protests as unconstitutional.
According to South China Morning Post, the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) had sought two court declarations that the police conduct last year represented an unlawful breach of freedoms of the press, opinion and expression guaranteed by the Basic Law.
Numerous examples of the ill-treatment included journalists being shot with rubber bullets and beanbag rounds, protesters targeted with tear gas, pepper spray and water cannons, arrested or threatened with arrest and being repeatedly and systematically met with police officers' refusal to identify themselves.
Last month, the same court had agreed that the system for dealing with complaints against the police was inadequate, and that officers' failure to display their identification numbers during last year's protests was in violation of the city's Bill of Rights.
However, Justice Anderson Chow Ka-ming on Monday concluded that the declarations sought in the latest case fell "on the wrong side of the line", and that it would be undesirable to make "a sweeping and general declaration" that breaches took place, reported South China Morning Post.

"Tempted as I am to lay down some guidelines on the legal limits and scope of the police's duty to facilitate, and not to hinder, lawful journalist activities with the hope of minimising unnecessary conflicts between the police and journalists in public order events, I am ultimately persuaded by [the police] that it would be wrong to decide matters in vacuo... It would also be misleading to make declarations of legal duties in unqualified terms without identifying the possible limits or qualifications of the relevant duties," the judge said in his decision.
However, Chow also said that his judgment should not be read as indicating that the court has or has not acted unlawfully, which could only be determined after a full investigation of facts and circumstances of the case.
HKJA in a statement said that it was "extremely disappointed" by the decision and would study the judgment to decide on the next steps.
On June 9 last year, more than one million people held demonstrations against the government's attempt to legalise extradition from Hong Kong to mainland China. In September that year, Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced the withdrawal of the extradition bill.
The five demands of the protestors are -- withdrawal of the extradition bill, an independent commission of inquiry to investigate rights abuses, an end to the prosecution of protesters, an end to the false labelling of the protests as "riots", and genuine universal suffrage in the elections of the Chief Executive and Legislative Council of Hong Kong.
However, the rest of the demands such as universal suffrage and an inquiry into alleged police brutality -- have been rejected by the city's leadership and Beijing, Al Jazeera reported earlier this year. (ANI)