While the veteran journalist Bao Choy is no stranger to run-ins with the law — she was taken away by mainland Chinese public security officers several years back for visiting human rights activists — she was stunned when the Hong Kong police showed up at her door last November to arrest her over her use of public records in a television program about the Yuen Long mob attack in 2019.
“This day has come to Hong Kong where the work of journalists can be the reason for an arrest,” the 37-year-old thought at the time.
Last month, Choy became the first journalist in Hong Kong to be found guilty of an offense related to public-records access. She had ruled out pleading guilty from the outset because doing so would mean other journalists would be barred from checking public records, she said.
“I never thought that this episode would lead to my arrest,” Choy told Apple Daily.
Her documentary, which was produced as an episode of RTHK’s “Hong Kong Connection,” revisits the scenes of the Yuen Long mob attack on July 21, 2019, and interviews key people one year after the assault.
The episode was a follow-up of another that had aired in 2019. Choy said she and her team looked at the attack again because some people were trying to reframe the mob attack as merely a clash between two groups of people. Even one year on, the full picture of the assault remained unclear with many questions unanswered, she said.
“People often said we only covered people dressed in black [pro-democracy protesters]. But why did white-clad people turn up at the scene? What were they doing there? Were there any masterminds behind it?” she said.
Choy, who worked at RTHK for 10 years, said her time with the public broadcaster had been happy since it gave its staff the space and resources to produce quality programs.
Apart from the July 21 attack, Choy and her team also covered the Prince Edward station incident that took place on Aug. 31, 2019, when live broadcasts captured scores of riot police storming into train compartments and using batons to beat commuters.
“Our instant thoughts were to locate the injured people. We sent people to different hospitals that evening hoping to find out where they were injured.”
As a journalism student at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Choy had been inspired by RTHK’s “Hong Kong Connection” series for its reporting style and decided that documentary-making would be her career goal, she said. In 2012, she joined the series’ production team and was given a challenging first job that required her to investigate several mainland companies suspected of making false financial records.
“All mainland companies would shut their doors if you came to check their books. We also needed to go ask for authorization to get into shareholders’ meetings,” she recalled. “When that episode was out, I was pretty happy.”
Choy also handled the bribery case involving former Hong Kong Secretary for Home Affairs Patrick Ho and foreign politicians.
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