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Outcry over Police Shooting of Indonesian Reporter at Hong Kong Protests

Special to BenarNews
2019-09-30
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A journalist is injured as riot police clash with protesters near China’s liaison office during a protest against a controversial extradition bill in Hong Kong, July 28, 2019.
A journalist is injured as riot police clash with protesters near China’s liaison office during a protest against a controversial extradition bill in Hong Kong, July 28, 2019.
AFP

Journalists in Hong Kong on Monday hit out at police violence against reporters and correspondents covering the three-month-long protest movement in the city, as lawyers of an injured Indonesian reporter said she would pursue compensation after being shot in the eye.

Veby Indah, a journalist for Indonesian-language publication Suara, was “seriously injured by a projectile fired from a police 12 gauge shotgun,” according to a statement from her lawyers on Monday.

It said Veby was likely injured by a bean bag round or a rubber bullet, as spent rounds of both types were found near the scene of her injury, the journalist’s lawyers, Vidler & Co, said in a statement to their Facebook page.

Veby had been on an elevated footbridge and was wearing a high-visibility vest and helmet emblazoned with the word “Press,” the firm said.

“This projectile was fired at a potentially lethal distance and from a low angle where the impact could only be on the upper body or head,” Veby’s lawyer, who gave only a surname Vidler, said. “This was in breach of manufacturer guidelines, any conceivable professional instruction and international norms.”

“Ms. Veby is lucky to be alive and but for her protective goggles, she would definitely have been blinded,” he said. “At present, very substantial visual impairment still remains a possibility.”

He said Veby would be filing criminal complaints against the Commissioner of Police and the officer who shot her, as well as civil proceedings for compensation.

Shot at close range

The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) said it was “gravely concerned” at the injuries suffered by Veby and would carry out a separate investigation.

“We deplore the use and threat of violence towards journalists covering events in Hong Kong from any source and calls on police and protestors to allow journalists to carry out their job of reporting the facts without risk of serious injury or threats of violence,” the group said.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong also expressed concern over the shooting of the Indonesian journalist.

“Footage from the incident shows she was clearly identified as a journalist and that the police officer fired a parting shot from only a few meters away,” the group said.

It said eyewitness reports from journalists, and video and photos shared on social media in recent weeks had shown journalists being hit by tear gas canisters and rubber bullets, police targeting clearly identifiable journalists with pepper spray, and with water cannon containing pepper spray, as well as verbal threats.

It also hit out at police officers for “deliberately shining bright lights at journalists to impede their access and coverage [and] blocking journalists’ cameras and video cameras especially while making arrests of protesters.”

Meanwhile, police chief superintendent John Tse said violence had escalated over the weekend, as protesters threw more than 100 Molotov cocktails, set large fires and attacked police officers.

Police had fired water cannon and 328 tear gas canisters as well as other projectiles to “clear the crowd.”

Tse also confirmed online video that appeared to show an officer firing a live ammunition round, saying the officer had fired into the air to disperse protesters who had surrounded him.

‘A Day of Grief’

Police made 157 arrests during the weekend’s clashes, of people as young as 12. More than two dozen injuries were reported by local media, he said.

London-based rights group Amnesty International has called the response of the Hong Kong police force to the protesters’ civil disobedience and political vandalism “outrageous” and “repressive.”

Protests that erupted in June in Hong Kong against plans by the city’s government to allow extradition to mainland China have grown into a broader movement, even after Hong Kong leaders pledged to scrap the plan by withdrawing the planned legislation.

The protesters’ five key demands are: the formal withdrawal of planned amendments to extradition laws; an amnesty for arrested protesters; an end to the description of protesters as rioters; an independent inquiry into police abuse of power; and fully democratic elections.

Police have banned a planned march to be held on Tuesday, which will mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China on Oct. 1, 1949.

Protesters are likely to defy the ban, with multiple protests planned under the theme “A Day of Grief.”

Reported in Hong Kong by Radio Free Asia, a sister entity of BenarNews.

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