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Head of Hong Kong journalists’ group sentenced to jail for obstructing police

HONG KONG: The head of Hong Kong’s leading journalists group was sentenced on Monday (Sep 25) to five days in jail for obstructing police officers in September last year after a case seen by some critics as a further blow to media freedoms in the financial hub.

Ronson Chan, chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, was detained and handcuffed by two plainclothes officers while covering a story after he failed to hand over his personal identity card.

Chan, who pleaded not guilty, earlier told the court that he had asked the police to show them their warrant cards before handing over his document, which all Hong Kong residents must carry.

Magistrate Leung Ka-kie found Chan guilty, saying that a fine instead of jail would not reflect the gravity of the offence. Leung also refused to consider community service instead as she said Chan showed no remorse.

Leung did grant Chan HK$30,000 (US$3,838.48) bail after his lawyers said he would appeal. The journalist could not leave Hong Kong and had to surrender his travel documents.

Speaking after the hearing, Chan said he was not surprised by the custodial sentence. “Everyone can see how the court views the case. I think justice is in our heart,” he said.

No date has yet been set for the appeal.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association is one of the last major professional groups in Hong Kong advocating fundamental rights and press freedoms, following the enactment in June 2020 of a national security law by Chinese authorities.

Some Western governments have criticised the law as repressive given the freedoms granted to Hong Kong after it was handed back to Chinese rule by Britain in 1997.

Beijing and Hong Kong officials have said the law was needed to bring stability after the city was rocked by months of pro-democracy demonstrations in 2019.

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