Journalists have led a march in Hong Kong protesting against alleged police beatings of three reporters covering recent unrest in western China.
Demonstrators held placards reading “respect press freedom” and “reporting the news is not crime”.
The three TV journalists say that they were punched, kicked and tied up before being detained for three hours.
The alleged assaults took place during a protest in Urumqi in western China’s Xinjiang province on 4 September.
At the time, thousands of Han Chinese were protesting over a spate of stabbings with syringes blamed on attackers from the region’s Uighur Muslims.
I think [Chinese security officials] are starting to squeeze the Hong Kong press… so in the future they will be more worried about reporting inside China
Democrat politician Lee Cheuk-yan
Riot police used tear gas to quell the protests, which came amid heightened tensions between Han Chinese and Uighurs.
Footage of the rough treatment endured by the journalists shocked officials and the general public in Hong Kong, reports the BBC’s Vaudine England.
In a subsequent news conference, a senior Xinjiang official Hou Hanmin expressed regret for the journalists’ treatment – but blamed them for stirring unrest.
She also accused the reporters – TVB senior reporter Lam Tsz-ho, his cameraman Lau Wing-chuen and Now TV cameraman Lam Chun-wai – of working without permits.
‘Over the line’
Sunday’s protest was called by the Hong Kong Journalists’ Association (HKJA) and was backed by several news outlets in the city – which enjoys relative press freedom compared to the Chinese mainland.
Simmering ethnic tensions have erupted into violence in Urumqi
Scores of protesters, many wearing black, marched on the local offices of Chinese central government.
“This time the authorities are over the line,” HKJA chairwoman Mak Yin-ting told the gathering, according to AP news agency.
“They did not only beat reporters, but blamed them for inciting the public disorder.”
Democrat politician Lee Cheuk-yan said he believed Chinese security services wanted to intimidate the usually feisty Hong Kong press pack.
“I think they are starting to squeeze the Hong Kong press and to harass Hong Kong reporters so in the future they will be more worried about reporting inside China,” he said.
The Chinese government has been struggling to restore calm in Xinjiang since riots in July, the worst ethnic unrest in the country for decades.
On Saturday, a court sentenced three people to up to 15 years in jail in the first trials over the syringe attacks.
The court did not give the defendants’ ethnicity but their names suggested they were from the Muslim Uighur minority.
spotted by RS