Four lawmakers are demanding an emergency meeting of the LegCo Transport Panel to discuss the issue of a journalist who was arrested and charged with making false statements while accessing transport data.
Kwok Ka-ki, Dennis Kwok Wing-hang, Alvin Yeung and Jeremy Tam Man-ho wrote to the chairman of the Transport Panel Frankie Yick Chi-ming, claiming the arrest had “shocked” the press, and that a new version of Transport Department (TD) data request form TD318 “hinders the free working of the press granted by Basic Law”. They demand the emergency Panel meeting with senior government officials to press for answers.
In response, panel chairman Yick says he has written to the Transport and Housing Bureau (THB) “to seek their view on this as this case is now under legal proceedings,” while he cannot say when THB might respond.
Police arrested Choy Yuk-lin at her home last week, after a member of the public reportedly complained that the reporter had used their personal data as part of a documentary investigation. Choy had allegedly obtained that data from TD, signing a declaration that the data would be used only for “transport related matters”. However, as the four lawmakers point out, since a change in the “Vehicles Particulars” data request form late last year, there is no option to declare any other data use purpose when signing the form.
Choy appeared in Fanling Magistrates Court this morning (10 November), charged with two counts of violating the Road Traffic Ordinance, charges which carry a maximum penalty of a HK$5,000 fine and six months imprisonment.
The magistrate adjourned the case until 14 January and Choy was released on bail.
Choy told reporters her data gathering work was common practice amongst journalists. “It has been a common practice for years that journalists do research or searches on cars, vehicles and land for the purpose of journalism,” she told a press conference on the courthouse steps. “I didn’t see any reason why the government has to restrict the flow of information.”
As well as calling an emergency meeting, the four lawmakers urge TD to add a “news gathering” tick-box to the form allowing journalists to properly represent themselves when gathering such data.