Hong Kong journalist Bao Choy loses appeal against conviction for using car registration database while making documentary about 2019 protests

The first journalist to be found guilty of breaking search rules in a Hong Kong government vehicle registry lost an appeal against her conviction on Monday.

Bao Choy Yuk-ling, 39, was fined HK$6,000 (US$769) last year for knowingly making false statements to the Ministry of Transport about her use of her database car registration while making a documentary investigating the police response to a mob attack during the 2019 anti – government protests.

A magistrate convicted her of rejecting journalism as a justification for searching official records, a decision that raised concerns it was stifling press freedom as the government was already tightening access to media. ‘information.

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Journalist fined for data breach may have made a ‘mistake’ according to Hong Kong judge

Choy, a former journalist with public broadcaster RTHK, carried out two raids in mid-2020 to track down the owners of vehicles that allegedly supplied weapons to 100 men in white tops to attack anti-government protesters at Yuen Long Station on July 21 . 2019.

Choy co-produced an episode of the TV show Connection to Hong Kong, which won a Human Rights Press Award, organized by the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club, and the Kam Yiu-yu Press Freedom Award, presented by the Hong Kong Journalists Association. RTHK declined both awards, citing an ongoing review of its operations.

One of the car owners, although not named on the show, filed a complaint with the police, which led to Choy’s arrest in November 2020.

Senior Magistrate Ivy Chui Yee-mei ruled in April 2021 that Choi had been dishonest when she cited “matters related to traffic and transportation” as the reason she accessed the department’s online database. , even though his real intention was to use the data for the report. .

The option is one of only three available to people seeking information, the others being ‘legal proceedings’ and ‘selling and buying vehicles’. Journalism is not an option.

The Association of Journalists urged the authorities to allow the press to inspect the vehicle register, a request denied by the authorities.

Instead, the department introduced an email notification system in January last year allowing car owners to ‘take precautionary measures’ whenever a third party seeks access to their personal data. in the database.

The association criticized the decision as another attempt to undermine investigative journalism and the public’s right to information.

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