Documentary producer Bao Choy has pleaded not guilty to making false statements after she obtained vehicle registration information as part of research for a film about the police reaction to the 2019 Yuen Long mob attacks.
The freelancer for public broadcaster RTHK appeared at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court on Thursday. She is facing trial over two alleged counts of violating the Road Traffic Ordinance by making false statements when searching for vehicle licence plate information online.
The information Choy obtained was used in an episode of Hong Kong Connection, which revealed how suspected plainclothes police were present in Yuen Long before the storming of the Yuen Long MTR station on July 21, 2019. The film was aired amid allegations that police had condoned the incident.
On that day, a mob of over 100 rod-wielding men indiscriminately attacked protesters, citizens, commuters and journalists in the station, leaving dozens injured. Several beatings also took place in the area, as some white-shirted assailants were seen chasing after people with sticks.
During Thursday’s hearing, the prosecution said they would summon seven witnesses, while the defence said they would question three of them. Choy’s lawyer said they had disputes over some legal points of view, including whether the alleged offences involved a “false” statement and whether the statement made belonged to a “material particular.”
Choy’s two-day trial is scheduled for March 24.
The 37-year-old producer told reporters after the hearing that RTHK decided not to give her any assignments related to Hong Kong Connection in early December, until her case is over. She described it as a “disappointing” decision, saying the government-funded broadcaster may face questions from their employees and the public about why they had supported her work but pulled her away from the team.
“Personally, I think it is like a double punishment. At first, I intended to find truth and do my job as a journalist. Then, I was arrested and got entangled in legal proceedings. In the end, even the role that I cherished a lot had to be suspended – of course I feel bad,” she said, adding that her freelance contract is set to expire by the end of January.
Choy said while her role at RTHK was halted, she would not stop engaging in journalistic work. But her future plans would be subject to the result of the case, she said.
Representatives from the RTHK Programme Staff Union and other supporters of Choy held placards a banner outside the courthouse that reads: “Fearless, unrelenting, selfless. Safeguard the truth, freedom.” They also chanted slogans in support of the producer.
“Fearless, unrelenting, selfless – support Bao Choy,” her supporters chanted.
Choy was arrested for allegedly accessing vehicle licence plate records as part of her job as a producer. pic.twitter.com/HFwcpp111n
— Hong Kong Free Press HKFP (@hkfp) January 14, 2021
The Transport Department introduced a new service earlier this month to notify vehicle owners by email when their records are accessed in the system. The Hong Kong Journalists Association slammed the move as setting up a “whistle-blowing mechanism,” making it more difficult for journalists to carry out investigative work.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam, however, said the new policy was intended to protect citizens’ against “doxxing,” adding she could not see it having an impact on reporting.
Additional reporting: Candice Chau.