Hong Kong police arrest chairman of largest journalist group

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FILE - Senior editor of Stand News Ronson Chan, speaks outside his office after released from police station in Hong Kong, on Dec. 29, 2021. Chan, the chairman of Hong Kong's largest journalists' association was arrested Wednesday Sept. 7, 2022 for allegedly obstructing police and public disorder while reporting, the latest case sparking concerns of declining media freedom in the city. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

HONG KONG (AP) — The chairman of Hong Kong's largest journalists' association was arrested Wednesday for allegedly obstructing police and public disorder while reporting, the latest case sparking concerns of declining media freedom in the city.

Ronson Chan, chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association and an employee of news outlet Channel C, and a colleague had planned to report on a meeting of public housing apartment owners in the city's Mong Kok district, Channel C reported.

The two were stopped by police and asked to present their identification cards. Chan was subsequently arrested.

Police said they discovered two men “acting suspiciously” on Wednesday and ordered them to produce identification. They said an 42-year-old man surnamed Li complied, while a 41-year-old man surnamed Chan refused to show identification despite multiple warnings.

He was arrested on charges of obstructing police in the execution of their duties and for disorder in public places, police said. They did not fully identify the arrested man, as is normal police practice.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association did not immediately comment on Chan’s arrest.

Chan’s arrest comes amid concerns of declining media freedom in the city following the implementation of a tough Beijing-imposed National Security Law in 2020 aimed at halting dissent in Hong Kong following months of anti-government protests in 2019.

Also on Wednesday, five Hong Kong speech therapists were convicted of sedition after they printed a series of children’s books about sheep and wolves that a court said was aimed at inciting hatred against authorities. They could face up to two years' imprisonment.

Since the National Security Law was implemented, media outlets deemed critical of the government or those that are overly pro-democracy have been raided by police and forced to close.

The newspaper Apple Daily, founded by outspoken media tycoon and activist Jimmy Lai, was forced to shut last year after police froze millions of dollars of its affiliates' assets during an investigation on national security grounds.

Later, Stand News, where Chan used to work, also ceased operations after several editors and board members were arrested and accused of sedition.

Hong Kong, once seen as a bastion of media freedom in Asia, now ranks 148th out of 180 countries and territories in the Reporters Without Borders' 2022 Press Freedom Index, down from 80th in 2021. The organization cites the National Security Law as the reason for the city's declining media freedoms.