The Hong Kong Reporters Deserve To Be Beaten?

The notion that any reporter deserves to be beaten is against the 'universal value' of freedom of press.  The addition of the question mark is an attempt to make this open question, but I am sure that some people will challenge whether such a question even needs to be posed.  I am not personally advocating for Hong Kong reporters to be beaten.  I am here to bring up two points about two recent incidents of attacks on Hong Kong reporters.  The first point is that the Hong Kong reporters are not being supported unconditionally.  In fact, there are some highly critical voices and not just from the paid pro-CCP "Internet commentators" (aka "50 cent gang").  The second point is that there is little or no reflection among Hong Kong reporters about why or how such criticisms are coming from.

But before any discussion, please make sure that you know the facts.  "If you don't know what happened, you have no right to comment."  Actually, that is what the second point above is about -- too many knee-jerk reactions without dealing with the specifics of the two cases and thus actually discrediting the reactions.

The first incident is the confrontation between actor Li Yapeng and reporters from Hong Kong's Sudden weekly magazine at the Bangkok airport.  The following is a television video of the incident, and a still photo of Li Yapeng putting a grip on the throat of a male reporter.


The second incident is covered in great detail at The Battle of Beijing - Part 1.  Here are the YouTube videos from the various Hong Kong television news channels.  Some of the voice-overs are in Cantonese but you don't have to understand Cantonese in order to watch the actions.

TVB (Hong Kong), in Cantonese


TVB (Hong Kong), in English

ATV (Hong Kong), in Cantonese

Cable TV (Hong Kong), in Cantonese

NOW TV (Hong Kong), in Cantonese

So you now know what the Hong Kong media recorded.  The following are translated excerpts from the group blog.  This is a mainland-based group blog founded by Phoenix TV reporter Rose Luqiu.

(  抽丫的强奸式采访 / 幻风阁 (Rape-like news interviews)


Li Yan was born with a cleft lip.  This created tremendous mental and psychological pressures on her parents Li Yapeng and Faye Wong (note: who are top entertainers/actors/singers).  At the Bangkok airport, this reporter ignored the adults in the family travel group and pointed his camera right at the face of the young child.  Isn't it clear that he was trying to create a story out of this little girl?  We can say that entertainers are there to entertain the public which confers fame on them.  Thus, entertainment reporters and entertainers have a symbiotic relationship.  It is understandable that reporters want to 'entertain' the entertainers.  But what did two-year-old Li Yan do to deserve this?  Where does that leave the dignity of her parents?  Isn't this a provocative challenge to human dignity?  When you do something as low-down as this, aren't you begging for a thrashing or what?  Afterwards, a television host interviewed Li Yapeng.  He said: "Did you see that reporter thrust the camera right to the face of the kid?  You can film me, but keep away from my kid.  That camera almost touched her face! ... I will use any means possible to protect my kid.  I want to use this opportunity to tell these reporters that you can film me, but it is unacceptable to film my kid.!"

As a father (and a celebrity father at that), Li Yapeng has always emphasized that "the family is the bottom line."  On this day, someone went passed that line and caused Li Yapeng to take certain extreme actions.  I think all this is understandable.  Someone said: "Even an idiot should have known that there will be a whole bunch of paparazzi staking out.  Even a mentally retarded person should have known that the poor child was going to be draw the attention of the paparazzi."  The implication was that the parents should not have taken their child to attend the Bhutan wedding between Tony Leung and Carina Lau and thus expose their child in front of the media.  I have to ask the question: Why does the child of a celebrity have to cower in fear?  Why can't they attend the wedding of their aunt/uncle with their parents like any other normal children?  Even if they are children of celebrities, they deserve the same rights as ordinary children.  Entertainment reporters can pay more attention to these children, but not to the point of depriving their rights!

The entertainers and the media have always been enmeshed in this mutually conflicting yet unifying relationship.  The multitudinous promotional gimmicks on the Internet today are designed to attract the attention of the tabloid entertainment media and gain "instant fame."  But once you are famous, the problems of being a celebrity ensue.  You have no privacy and everything that you do is exposed under the lenses of the entertainment reporters.  Sometimes, even your family members are not spared.  Even if you insist over and over again about your wish to protect the private space of your family, the reporters have to make a living too.  Thus, the highly professional Hong Kong entertainment media staged this incident to provoke Li Yapeng at the Bangkok airport.  The point is to make you angry; the angrier you are, the better the effect with only a bruise on my face.

We have previously discussed professionalism in journalism many times already, from the cowardly CCTV  reporter through "Runner Fan" to the Hong Kong entertainment reporters today.  But any professional in any field should have a professional bottom line.  A reporter should know what can be filmed or not.  They cannot do anything that they want to in the name of journalism.  During the process of ferreting out entertainment news, many entertainment reporters toss out the laws, rules and regulations.  According to the relevant laws, Li Yan had just undergone a cleft lip operation and her parents have the right to protect her privacy for her sake.  During the many attempts to gather information about Li Yan, the reporters have consistently used forcible methods that go beyond the minimum professional ethics.  The subjects always have the legal right to refuse to cooperate and they should be protected by the law.  Anyone who employs rape-like methods deserves to be beaten up!


Ultimately, the paparazzi run rampant because they capitalize on a crucial fact about the entertainers: You are a celebrity and you have to be concerned about your public image; you have to hold back even if you are pissed off, because you are afraid of the exposés and negative reports; I am a member of the paparazzi and I can afford to be shameless; you are a celebrity and you cannot afford to do so.  Thus, the paparazzi are able to trample upon the privacy of other people and use rape-like methods to gather news, including sacrificing their own selves for the sake of manufacturing news.

(  媒体如不反思,以后不止会挨打 / 李普曼 (If the media do not reflect, they will continue to be beaten up)

Was Li Yapeng right to beat up the reporter?  Of course not.  Does the reporter deserve to be beaten up?  Of course, he does!  Based upon the laws promulgated by civilized people, Li Yapeng employed violence to assault another person.  The Hong Kong female reporter was very knowledgeable about the law.  When she saw her colleague being assaulted, she yelled aloud: "Call the police!  Call the police!"  And then the police appeared very quickly as if they were summoned by Aladdin's lamp.

The reporter obviously felt aggrieved as he displayed the mark left by Li's slap on his neck.  He repeatedly complained that he was just a working stiff who has to do what his boss orders.  The hidden assumption is very clear: Li Yapeng, you are a free person; when I film you, you can dodge; but I am not free because if I don't film you, I'll lose my job; I have a great deal of pressure on me.  So the outcome was that you hit me; not only that, but you broke my camera; if you won't pay me compensation, how can I explain to my boss?

After reading the complaint from this person, I began to wonder if he was really a reporter.  It is no wonder that the Chinese term for paparazzi is the "doggie squad."  When their master tosses a bone over there and says: "Fetch!" they wag their tails and rush over.  If someone tries to stop them, they try to bite them.  If they can't win, they whine: "I am just trying to fetch a bone for my master; if I can't fetch it, I'll lose my job."

When a media worker does that and still claims that he is a reporter trying to gather news -- doesn't he deserve to be beaten up?

(  关于打记者 / 闾丘露薇  (Concerning the beating of the reporters, by Rose Luqiu).

After watching the Li Yapeng video, I thought that the two entertainment reporters (especially the female reporter behind the camera) were being deliberately provocative.  Regrettably, Li Yapeng could not check himself.

After the assault, the reporters got their story and Li Yapeng released his anger.  The reporters will probably not insist on pursuing the legal course because this incident took place in a foreign country.  In such cases, the boss is interested in getting the story and disinterested in creating more troubles, so their employees obviously appreciate that.

As to whether the reporter deserves the beating, that is something between Li Yapeng and him,nd they can sort it out between themselves.  They each have their own roles as to play as paparazzi and entertainment star.  Although they are opposed to each other, they are also inseparable.  As for spectators like us, these paparazzi would never exist but for our insatiable curiosity.  Therefore, we should not despise the paparazzi.  After all, that is just a job that was created to satisfy a demand.  Based upon the current social conditions, the paparazzi are impossible to eradicate completely.


These entertainment reporters are doing their best in order to keep their jobs and therefore they employ any means possible.  As such, they are despised and when they are assaulted, they don't deserve sympathy.  More importantly, the substance of their efforts do not affect the public's right to know and therefore it does not pertain to freedom of press.


When an entertainer beats up a reporter, that is an individual action.  If the entertainer is willing to accept the consequences (including any legal ones), that that is his own problem.  But when the Hong Kong reporters got into physical confrontation with the Beijing police during the Olympic ticket sales, that becomes a public incident.

Let us look at what Xinhua's report on Friday afternoon:

On the afternoon of July 25, the police set up a restricted zone.  SCMP reporter Felix Wong went into the restricted zone to take photographs.  The militia police officer Zhang Yuzhu advised Felix Wong to leave.  Wong refused to obey and kicked Zhang in the groin, causing an injury.  Afterwards, Wong was taken away by the police to assist in the investigation while Zhang was taken to the hospital for treatment.

During the investigation, Wong admitted that he ignored the advice from the militia policeman and also kicked him.  The preliminary medical diagnosis was that Zhang had suffered an injury to his testicles and must stay there for observation.  Afterwards, the Beijing police contacted the SCMP Beijing bureau.  At 4pm, the SCMP Beijing bureau leader and Felix Wong went to visit the injured militia policeman Zhang Yuzhu at the hospital and offered apologies and flowers.  At this time, Wong has been released and SCMP states that it will cooperate with the police investigation.

There were other incidents too: a Hong Kong Cable TV reporter was shoved to ground and gripped by the throat which caused swollen vocal chords; a TVB camera was damaged; a NOW TV reporter was forcibly pulled down from a stool.

Actually, it is normal to have physical contact in a scene of confusion, especially when everybody is trying to do their own jobs and the emotions get in the way.  Much of the time, both sides are responsible without being intentionally so.  But why was there such chaos at the scene?

Let us look at the statement from SCMP: "The reporter unintentionally injured a police officer and he has been released after making an apology.  The reporter was only carrying out his duties.  The reporters, the police and the citizens of Beijing are all victims of the failure by the relevant government departments to come up with a reasonable plan for Olympic tickets sales in an orderly manner."

According to the official estimate, the number of people in the queue was as high as 30,000 persons.  According to the media estimates, the number was more than 40,000.  The Beijing Olympics Committee ticket sales officials said that the chaos was caused by the presence of too many scalpers who employed migrant workers to stand in line whereas its own procedures had been proper.

But the television videos showed that the crowd broke through the barriers and the police had a hard time keeping them back behind the iron barriers.  It would seem that the police was undermanned.  According to information from colleagues at the scene, the entire police force from the Beijing Chaoyang District was mobilized but 1,000 policemen are nothing against several tens of thousands of people.  Many of the police had not slept for two days and two nights in a row.  In the extreme heat, many police officers as well as civilians passed out.

It is clear that these are two completely unrelated incidents.  What happens in the one has nothing to do with the other.  Unfortunately, the two are intertwined because they both have to with self-reflection (or lack thereof) among the Hong  Kong media.

In the case of Li Yapeng, the Hong Kong media have never taken a serious reflection about their roles and the ethical boundaries with respect to public figures such as entertainers, celebrities, business tycoons, government officials and poltiicans.  Well, maybe they did but nothing of consequence has occurred as a result.  Any discussion of such is usually avoided because of the impingement on freedom of press as well as commercial interests.  The net result is an accumulation of disgust and contempt among some members of the general public that go beyond just entertainment journalism but extend to all areas of journalism.  This problem is left to fester and does no good. 

In the case of the Beijing Olympics, I have deliberately left only the 'facts' in The Battle of Beijing - Part 1 without any editorializing.  Here is the excerpt from the Duke of Aberdeen blog:

On any matter, one should understand the facts and then comment.  When the facts are placed before the people, they can make the public conclusion.  But when you think that the people are not clear-headed enough and may be misinformed and therefore you take the pre-emptive action of misleading them, you are either disregarding your audience's right-to-know or else you are treating them disrespectfully as fools to be conned.  When the news reports are written for political motives before an incident is even determined to have occurred or not, what basis is there left for the readers to discuss?  What is the point of talking about human rights and freedom?

All newspapers have their styles and stances.  It is impossible to be be absolutely fair and balanced.  I understand all that and I don't ask for too much.  But at the very least ... this should not go as far as reversing right and wrong.

So I would urge to go and familiarize yourselves with the 'facts' of the Beijing Olympics incident and come to your own conclusion.  At least, that would be an 'informed conclusion' as opposed to some automated response to a skewed sketch of 'facts.'

What are the things to think about?

Felix Wong stated in his television interview afterwards that he became concerned after being taken into custody because he has no understanding of the local laws.  What!!!???  How was he sent out without any such briefing?  Did he assume that all Hong Kong rules would automatically apply in mainland China?  Was that why the Hong Kong reporters reacted the way that they did, because they assume that Hong Kong rules applies everywhere in the world?  And was that why the only reporters involved in this incident were from Hong Kong whereas none of the local Beijing, national Chinese and foreign media reporters got into trouble because they knew and observed the local rules (as in, not entering a police-restricted zone and rejecting police orders to leave)?

P.S. What are the Hong Kong rules?  Well, you have no idea ... Let me offer you one example.  Once upon a time, there was a staged media event.  This had been an ongoing sit-in by local activists to preserve a historical site. But these local activists were nobodies to whom the press paid scant attention.  The local activists camped out at the site for days but there was no media coverage.  Then one day, a certain radical politician decided that this event was a good occasion to exploit.  So he sent a message to the media that there would be a confrontation at 8:00pm that evening.  At 7:50pm, the television media arrived to set up the cameras.  At 8:00pm, the politician and his small entourage of professional demonstrators arrived.  Of course, the Hong Kong police were already alerted and present with suitable force.  At 8:05pm, there was a physical confrontation involving much shoving between the very small number demonstrators including the politician and the police for the purpose of filming.  At 8:10pm, the demonstrators, the police and the film crews packed up to leave.  The local activists remained at the scene, and they were quite content because their issue will be aired on the late evening news programs.  Do you want to live by these Hong Kong rules?  Does anyone in Hong Kong ever discuss these unwritten (and quite absurd) rules in an open and frank manner?  Is freedom of press about being able to broadcast such 'news' stories?

(SCMP)  Bocog regrets strong-arm tactics.  Elaine Wu, Kristine Kwok and Mary Ann Benitez.  July 28, 2008.

Olympics organisers on Saturday admitted Beijing police had acted inappropriately during a scuffle with Hong Kong reporters on Friday and said officials would learn from the experience.  "We deeply regret what happened," said Zhao Dongming, director of the Cultural Activities Department of the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games.  "Perhaps there was some mishandling at the site of the incident. I think after this experience everyone will find a way to do a better job."  Mr Zhao added that police would work on improving internal education and prevent the recurrence of such mayhem.

Several Hong Kong journalists were pushed, dragged and forcibly removed from reporting on the chaos that developed at Olympics ticket offices in Beijing on Friday.  South China Morning Post photographer Felix Wong was detained after accidentally kicking a police officer in the groin while defending himself during a scuffle.  Hong Kong Cable TV reporter Vicky Law Fai-cheung sought medical treatment after he was pushed to the ground by a police officer and suffered an injury to his neck, while a camera carried by a Television Broadcasts cameraman was damaged by police.  Friday's manhandling of journalists came days after two recent incidents in which an Apple Daily reporter's home-return permit was seized and a Ming Pao reporter's digital camera card was confiscated while reporting in the capital.

Zhai Junsheng, director of the Beijing International Media Centre, held a hastily arranged tea meeting last night with about 20 Hong Kong journalists, most of whom had been at the scene of Friday's scuffle.  Mr Zhai said the incident had turned out to be a "good opportunity as it reminded us that there are areas that we need to improve ... and we need to be aware that the challenges ahead could be more serious than we had thought".

Security parameters could be changed during the Games as more incidents were expected to take place, he said.   "In that case, authorities will try to be more scientific about drawing the line and we will inform reporters through various channels," he said, describing Friday's events as "an accident".

Hong Kong Journalists Association acting chairman Jackie Sam said he believed there would probably be more such incidents to come before the Games were over.  He added: "The whole world is focused on China at the moment. It will really be a great shame if they cannot pull their act together."

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