8 Media unions write to Lam Cheng requesting meeting: charges against RTHK’s Chua Yuk Ling dropped

The female editor-director Choi Yuk Ling, who participated in the production of two special reports on the Yuen Long 721 incident for Radio Television Hong Kong’s programme “Articulate”, has been arrested and charged in a high-profile case for allegedly violating the Road Traffic Ordinance. In response, eight media unions, including the Hong Kong Journalists Association, the Photojournalists’ Association and the RTHK Workers Union, sent an open letter to Chief Executive Carrie Lam, requesting a meeting as soon as possible to discuss the matter, saying that the incident had brought a chilling effect on the industry and that journalists were worried that they might be arrested and imprisoned if they sought to find out the truth.

The arrest of Cai Yu-ling was followed by allegations that she made false statements when she applied for a license plate search for the show. She was charged with two counts and appeared in court on November 10. The case was adjourned until Jan. 14 next year at the request of the prosecution to allow police to complete their investigation, during which she was granted continued bail. The case is expected to be remanded until January 14 next year to allow the police to complete their investigation, during which she will be released on bail. The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) applied to the Hong Kong government last week to organize a march for industry insiders only, but was turned down. The Hong Kong Journalists Association expressed its deep disappointment and said it would continue to speak out for her and the industry through other channels.

The eight media unions signed an open letter released Monday, saying that the arrest of Ms. Choi was a cause of concern to the industry and that journalists seeking to find out the truth would have to “search the registers”. The Hong Kong government also emphasizes the freedom of information. Journalists have long been accessing information on vehicles, companies, marriages and land for news purposes, which precisely demonstrates that Hong Kong is an open and free information society. The reasons why the case of Chua Yuk Ling is deeply worried and troubled.

For example, in 2003, the Transport Department adopted an administrative measure to restrict the use of licence plate searches to traffic and transport matters only; in 2012, the government proposed to amend the Companies Ordinance to restrict access to the full identity card numbers and addresses of company directors, which was eventually halted due to strong backlash from the press. Last year, the Immigration Department also amended the requirement that access to birth certificates and marriage certificates must be authorized by the parties concerned or by application to an immigration officer.

In the past, many reports involving significant public interest, including incidents of unauthorised building works by senior government officials and election malpractices, have been exposed by means of the Internet. Through access to information, the media have played an important role in exercising their fourth power to monitor the community, and few cases of misuse of the Internet have been heard of in the past. The media union concluded with three demands, “I. The Government upholds freedom of the press, respects the right to press, promotes open access to information, and protects the public’s right to know; II. (c) The Government urges all departments to open their inventories, and the media may cite public information activities as a reason for applying; III. It is not in the public interest for the police to prosecute Chua Yuk Ling, and the charges should be dropped.” The open letter to Carrie Lam said, “We would like to make an urgent appointment with you to discuss the matter with you as soon as possible to allay the concerns of the industry.”