Bao Choy won awards for her research. Now she has been convicted of her job

In a case seen as a further blow to the freedom of the press in the city, Bao Choy was found guilty on Thursday in the West Kowloon Magistrate’s Court in Hong Kong of violating the city ordinance on road traffic and a fine of 6,000 Hong Kongers. dollars ($ 770) imposed. The charge resulted in a possible six-month prison sentence.

Prosecutors say the freelance journalist violated the ordinance because she searched the vehicle registration database during the production of the documentary “Hong Kong Connection: 7.21 Who Owns the Truth?” for the public broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK).

Prosecutors said the ordinance should only be used for ‘transport-related matters’ – and not during reporting.

Magistrate Ivy Chui agreed, saying the use of Choy’s database was not in line with what vehicle owners expected when submitting their data to the Department of Transportation. She said the government should not hand out personal details of vehicle owners to users who do not use the information within the scope of the permitted use.

“Reporting and news gathering are not related to traffic and transportation related issues,” Chui said. “It is clear that the applicant used the information from the Department of Transportation for reporting purposes.”

The case against Choy has heightened concerns about civil liberties in the semi-autonomous Chinese city, as authorities continue to crack down on prominent figures associated with the democracy movement.

Dozens of suspected gang members violently attacked supporters and commuters inside the local train station Yuen Long, in northern Hong Kong, in July 2019. The police took 39 minutes to respond to the attack, which has produced criticism from pro-democracy demonstrators and confidence deteriorated between the protesters. and authorities.

During Choy’s program, which aired on RTHK in July 2020, a narrator said producers had identified a number of vehicles that allegedly provided weapons to the attackers. Using a vehicle registration database, producers linked the vehicles to local village representatives living in the area before approaching them for comment.

Choy’s documentary won two awards in Hong Kong, which recently won one on Wednesday.

During last month trial Choy’s lawyer, Derek Chan, argued Choy’s use of the database was ‘apparently related to traffic issues’, as the vehicles allegedly carried weapons for the perpetrators of the July 21 attack.

He added that public databases should remain open due to the public interest.

The case is seen as another example of the increasing restrictions on journalists. After the verdict was delivered, Choy’s supporters held signs and held slogans, including ‘Journalism is not a crime’, and ‘Bao Choy, fight on’.

International Watchdog Reporters Without Borders Hong Kong now ranks 80 out of 180 countries and press freedom areas. In 2002, the city ranked 18th.