No big deal in Hong Kong street protests

Chau Chi-wing - Reporter, now TV       (Translated by Helen Wong)

[Apr 2013 - The Journalist] In Hong Kong the street protest is an everyday affair, plain ordinary. There are protests almost every weekend. Some march to the government headquarters, others voice their anger outside the Central Government’s Liaison Office in Western.

None of the protests I have covered over the past two years had any association with violence -- a proud phenomenon of Hong Kong. Until two days before 2013.

They key protestors are always the lead actors. They bravely voice their views when marching on the streets. The media report what they think so the public know the grievances of those they have never met, ensuring no one’s welfare is neglected.

Journalists act as a bridge the protesters and the general public. We interview, record, write and film; and through our factual, unbiased and objective reporting, we bring the views of the protesters to the public.

We, journalists, are always supporting actors, helping the vulnerable and the unjustly treated to voice their grievances. It is our duty. We are not the lead actors. The fact is we never want to be the lead actors.

Seasoned journalists say they have not seen journalists being roughed up in any protest in a long  while. But as a victim of an assault I am obliged to reflect on whether I was partly responsible for the attack.

Speaking on a radio programme the day after the attack, I told the host I was too “greedy”, trying hard to get the best sound bite from the interviewee. It was likely I overestimated the tolerance of the interviewee. With hindsight, I should have stopped the interview as the crowd gathered to void further stoking emotions. I should not argue with the protesters as they were getting increasingly emotional.

As I said, journalists are there to report the diverse views of society; we have no evil intent. The protesters should use the opportunity to state their position and persuade the public. If our questions are not good enough, or they cannot hear us well, they should ask for clarification. They also have the right to refuse to be interviewed. It is absolutely wrong to use violence and foul language to attack journalists. The assault is outrageous.

Journalists speak for the public. If there are people who meet disagreement with violence, our society will become more violent after the media reports such violence. But in my case the aggressor said: “No regrets because it is for well being of Hong Kong.” That was after he was fined for assaulting us. I strongly disagree with his remarks.

To attack a journalist who is doing his job is to assault press freedom. Our sadness and worries on Hong Kong’s press freedom is not groundless. As the freest city in China, we highly value our freedom. We have to root out violence, or lose our freedom.

Last but not the least, I stand by and share with you French philosopher Voltaire’s famous statement, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”