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HK Journalists Condemn Police Decision Not to Prosecute Attackers

FILE -- Ken Tsang, center, a member of a local pro-democracy political party, is carried by plainclothes police officers after a clash between protesters and police in an occupied area near the government headquarters in Hong Kong, Oct. 15, 2014.

Hong Kong journalists have strongly condemned a government decision not to prosecute a pro-government group that allegedly attacked reporters during last year's pro-democracy protests.

Police in the former British colony this week cited a lack of evidence against the suspects in the October attack on reporters from broadcasters TVB and RTHK.

An RTHK reporter said she could remember her attackers but the police never asked her to identify them. TVB News criticized the decision not to prosecute, calling it regrettable. It condemned any violence on journalists as an attack on press freedom, and demanded a more thorough investigation.

Hong Kong Journalists Association chairperson Sham Yee-lan told VOA's Mandarin service that the decision was “incomprehensible” given ample photographic and video evidence. She said the police should explain their decision and state whether the complaints were properly investigated.

“We feel that this situation is quite strange. It's outrageous, [and we] feel very disappointed. The police only said that [they] have no evidence, but they haven’t advanced an honest explanation. [We] hope that the police can go out again and investigate this matter," she said.

Law Yuk-kai, director of Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, said the police decision undermines their supposed neutrality.

“This clearly is a solid case, the police are also ignoring the rules. [They] basically made no effort in order to be able to remove the case because of a lack of evidence. It makes people call into question their [the police] ability, political neutrality, and impartiality," he said.

He said the decision will put journalists in greater danger and have a lasting impact.

Officials have not responded publicly to the criticism.

Democracy activists held more than two months of mass street protests and sit-ins at the end of last year to demand what they refer to as genuine democracy. At one point, the protesters blocked several key roads and numbered in the tens of thousands, posing a significant political challenge to Beijing.

Beijing and Hong Kong officials refused to give in to the protesters' demands, instead declaring the gatherings illegal and forcibly breaking them up.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Mandarin service.