Hong Kong’s public broadcaster RTHK and journalists from other media outlets became the target of hundreds of pro-government protesters who picketed the station’s premises in Kowloon Tong, hurling insults and attacking reporters for an hour on Saturday.
Politihk Social Strategic, the pro-establishment organiser of the rally, which also organised several pro-government rallies in the past two months, claimed more than 10,000 surrounded broadcaster RTHK’s headquarters in the hot afternoon sun. Police estimated peak attendance at 1,200.
“In the past, RTHK has always been biased. We demand RTHK hand over extra airtime to the citizens,” said Tang Tak-shing, chairman of the organising group. “We want diverse voices of citizens and no more anti-government messages.
“When all of the media is watching the government, RTHK should represent the voice of the government,” he said.
Tang said the group would form a “citizens’ production committee” to create programming to fill the extra airtime.
Journalists have become a popular target of pro-establishment supporters during the recent protests against the now-suspended extradition bill, accused of filming only police brutality and barely reporting on the violent behaviour of anti-government protesters.
When all of the media is watching the government, RTHK should represent the voice of the government
Tang Tak-shing, chairman, Politihk Social Strategic
Ng Man-yee, head of RTHK’s corporate communications and standards, received a letter with the demands of the protesters from inside the gates. “We have heard your demands,” she said, but did not elaborate on what action might be taken.
A statement released by RTHK said: “At present, RTHK has provided different platforms for the community, non-governmental organisations and the underprivileged to participate in broadcasting.”
It invited members of the public to express their opinions through RTHK’s Community Involvement Broadcasting Service (CIBS), RTHK Television Programme Commissioning Projects and radio phone-in programmes.
Earlier in the day, Politihk Social Strategic had called on protesters not to bring sticks or metal rods and to maintain a peaceful rally.
However, the situation quickly descended into chaos as the mostly elderly crowd began to surround individual reporters and photographers, hitting cameras and swinging punches. A photographer reported his camera lens was licked by a protester.
“Black reporters, you know the law yet you break it, where is your conscience?” the protesters shouted at the working reporters, co-opting slogans used during the extradition bill protests such as “black cops”.
“[You] reverse black and white and support those rioters, let me say now, 80 per cent of the media is black media,” said one protester, who declined to give his name. “You call the police black cops, but the gentlest police in the world are in Hong Kong,” he said.
Tang, the organiser, speaking after the rally ended at 4pm, said the journalists at the scene had provoked protesters. “And anyway, these are citizens and not all of them are members of our group, so I cannot be responsible for their actions,” he said.
Meanwhile, other protesters created their own “Lennon Wall” on the front gate and fence of RTHK headquarters with posters that said “I support the Hong Kong police, you may now beat me up”, which was said by a reporter for the Chinese state tabloid Global Times after he was surrounded by protesters at Hong Kong International Airport on August 13.
Earlier, the Hong Kong Association of Media Veterans published a letter to RTHK director Leung Ka-wing in local papers in which it criticised the behaviour of two women reporters from RTHK at government press conferences.
“The two women reporters screamed and interrupted the chief executive … They were not asking questions as journalists, rather behaving like judges,” the letter said.
The Hong Kong Press Photographers Association and Hong Kong Journalists Association issued statements condemning the violent behaviour of protesters during the rally.
Both accused protesters of infringing on the freedom of the press in Hong Kong while the HKJA called the acts a violation of the city’s core values under “one country, two systems”.
The HKPPA said many front-line photojournalists were harassed and attacked by protesters, who struck cameras, covered up lenses and made offensive hand gestures to photographers and camera operators.
A journalist who had water poured on him and was punched was pulled away by police, but no arrests were made despite other journalists at the scene reporting it to officers.