Hong Kong protests: Indonesian journalist shot by police projectile 'will be blind in one eye'

Veby Indah was wearing a press vest while covering the protests on Sunday.
PHOTO: AFP

An Indonesian journalist who was shot in the face with a police projectile while covering a protest in Hong Kong on Sunday will be left blind in one eye, according to her lawyer.

Veby Indah's legal representative, Michael Vidler, said in a statement that her doctors told her on Wednesday the injury she received would result in permanent blindness in her right eye.

"She was informed that the pupil of her eye was ruptured by the force of the impact. The exact percentage of permanent impairment can only be assessed after surgery," he said.

Vidler said her family had visited Hong Kong and been by her bedside.

"We can also confirm that we have received evidence from a third party, which indicates that the projectile that blinded Ms Veby was a rubber bullet and not a beanbag round as originally thought."

Vidler added: "We have filed a criminal complaint and requested details of the identity of the shooter and what steps they [police] are taking to investigate. We have received no substantive reply."

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The incident took place on Sunday afternoon while Veby, 39, was in the middle of a Facebook Live broadcast, covering the unrest for Suara Hong Kong News, an Indonesian-language newspaper in the city.

The paper mainly covers stories about Indonesian migrant workers and other social issues in the city. Veby, an associate editor at Suara, came to Hong Kong in 2012.

Tens of thousands took to the streets on Sunday as part of the ongoing anti-government campaign triggered by the now-withdrawn extradition bill.

The march degenerated into violence, with mobs setting many parts of Hong Kong's bustling commercial streets in Admiralty, Wan Chai and Causeway Bay ablaze and riot police battling radical protesters for hours.

Veby, who was wearing a press vest, was standing on an overpass linking Immigration Tower to Wan Chai MTR station and was hit in the face by a projectile fired by police. She sustained injuries to her forehead and eyes.

In an interview with the Post on Sunday, she said: "I was wearing a helmet and goggles. I was standing with other journalists. I heard a journalist shouting, 'Don't shoot, we are journalists'. But police shot. The next thing I know … I was down."

She said police were retreating from the footbridge when one fired in the direction of a group of protesters and journalists.

At a press conference the following day, Chief Superintendent John Tse Chun-chung said there were both journalists and protesters at the scene, with the latter throwing at least two petrol bombs from the bridge, endangering the lives of police.

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"We have sent our sympathies to the journalist and got in touch with her through a representative of the Indonesian consulate. She said she needed to rest and refused to give a statement to police, but she will lodge a complaint via her lawyer later," Tse said.

An Indonesian vice-consul, Vania Lijaya, declined to discuss Veby's condition. "We do not have the right to disclose her health condition. The consulate is offering any assistance she needs. Our staff go to visit her every day and we have helped contact her family and they have come to Hong Kong.

"We have written to Hong Kong police for information regarding what happened to Veby that day."

Veby could not be reached for comment.

Vidler previously said Veby would ask the police chief to launch a criminal probe into the incident, and she would also file civil proceedings to seek redress.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.