SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: September 15, 2019

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):Hong Kong Baptist University

Region & Country:Eastern Asia | Hong Kong 

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On 15, September 2019, Boaz So King-wah, a journalism student at Baptist University of Hong Kong (HKBU), was arrested and detained for possessing offensive weapons after he was found carrying what a colleague described as a butter knife, while he was covering the pro-democracy demonstrations for Broadcast News Network (BNN), a video news channel run by HKBU’s journalism students.

Video of the arrest shows Mr. So wearing a press vest and appears to corroborate his claim that the knife was a butter knife. According to press reports, Mr. So denied working with protestors and informed police that he had been using the butter knife to cut mooncakes, a traditional dessert, three days earlier during the Mid-Autumn Festival, and had forgotten to take it out of his bag.

According to another student reporter who was with Mr. So at the time of his arrest, he was taken into custody in the Fortress Hill neighborhood of Hong Kong. He was released on HK$500 (US$64) bail the next day, September 16. He is required to report back to North Point Police station next month.

Scholars At Risk is concerned about the arbitrary arrest and detention against a student journalist in apparent retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of press and freedom of association, conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Hong Kong is a party. Authorities have an obligation to comply with internationally recognized standards of academic freedom, freedom of expression, freedom of press and freedom of association, as well as due process and fair trial.