It's always good for reporters to have a chance to work overseas, even if it's just on a temporary assignment. It broadens your professional experience and mental horizon. Sadly, reporting duties sometimes come with a price.
Of the six reporters sent by Hong Kong Golden, an online forum, to cover the nationwide protests in France, four have been injured just days after arrival. Two were reportedly injured by sting grenades used by French anti-riot police; one was allegedly pepper-sprayed and then kicked by an officer; and another suffered a sprain while running away from a protest scene.
A sting or sting-ball grenade operates like a fragmentation grenade. But while the latter collapses a metal casing that produces deadly shrapnel, the former shoots out tiny rubber balls that cause pain and injuries but usually don't kill.
Used by anti-riot police and the French elite police unit GIGN, it's a controversial non-lethal weapon because of the injuries it can cause to multiple individuals. It is not used by Hong Kong police.
We won't know exactly what happened until those six return and tell us. But it would be a big mistake for reporters to cover violent French protests like they do in Hong Kong. You wouldn't want to get too close to French police while they are conducting operations. They tend to be extremely focused on the job.
Hong Kong police, however, have allowed reporters to do just that in the past six months, to even stand in front of them. If they accidentally hit or shove a reporter, they are accused of interfering with journalists carrying out their fourth estate duties - or worse, brutality.
But in the mythical world of the opposition pan-democrats and the rioters and protesters they support, it's the other way around: Hong Kong police are uncontrollably violent while Western security forces are babysitters in uniforms who at most use harsh language to restrain naughty protesters.
Perhaps incidents like those reporters' would inform locals better about how anti-riot police actually operate in Western countries.
Now, I wonder if our protesters will visit the local French consulate to demand answers, perhaps launch an official inquiry. Will the pan-dems and the Hong Kong Journalists Association demand an apology from French President Emmanuel Macron and French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner? What about naming the responsible officers and suing the French state?
Whatever happens, let's wish the HKGolden reporters a speedy recovery.
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