Thu, May 25, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Hospital security assault reporters over breast gel

AFP , HONG KONG

Hong Kong reporters were attacked by hospital security guards in southern China during coverage of a lawsuit over the hospital's alleged use of toxic gel in plastic surgery, reports said yesterday.

Cable TV images showed its reporter Li Ka-chung shoved, pushed around, punched and kicked by men outside the Shenzhen Fuhua Hospital, which is fighting a compensation case over the use of the chemical Polyacrylamide Gel gel in plastic surgery.

The assailants snatched his mobile phone and later assaulted him and another TV reporter Anderson Chan when he intervened, the TV images showed.

Women in white medical gowns also began assaulting them and only let go when public security officers arrived. A man left carrying iron bars.

Several Hong Kong newspapers reporters have also been beaten up outside the hospital, including one from Beijing-backed newspaper Ta Kung Pao.

The South China Morning Post said its reporter was assaulted by three security guards as they tried to wrestle his camera from him.

On the previous day, five journalists and cameramen were also attacked outside the same hospital.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association said it was "highly concerned" of the assault and condemned the action.

"[We] strongly condemn anyone who treats media workers violently and these barbaric and illegal acts have seriously threatened their personal safety and freedom of the media," chairwoman Cheung Ping-ling (張柄玲) said in a statement.

Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee (李少光) also expressed concerns over the attacks.

"The Hong Kong government is very concerned about the attacks of the Hong Kong reporters in Shenzhen," he told reporters. "The Security Bureau has contacted the mayor office and tried to find out what has happened."

"The mayor promised he will treat this case in a fair and serious manner and according to law and I believe this will be dealt with according to law," he said.

On Wednesday, RTHK reported five hospital staff have been arrested in connection with the case as police sealed off the hospital, citing its "chaotic management" and the need to preserve evidence.

The hospital is at the center of a civil lawsuit for allegedly using the toxic gel, which was banned in China last month after a flood of consumer complaints and warnings from the Hong Kong Consumer Council that the widely used product could cause women to lose their breasts if it was used in augmentation surgery.

A Shenzhen court on Tuesday heard an appeal filed by a Shenzhen woman who complained of irreversible damage from injections of the gel during cosmetic surgery on her forehead, the South China Morning Post reported.

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