Kemal Bokhary

Dangerous views 'must be tolerated in a free society'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 April, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 April, 2000, 12:00am

Mr Justice Bokhary told mainland legal scholars freedom of expression meant tolerating statements you disagree with and even those you regard as dangerous.

The judge made his comments when, during the trip, he was asked by a student at Tsinghua University about the right of people in the SAR to speak freely on Taiwan.

'One student did ask me about the right to speak freely in Hong Kong about the situation in Taiwan. He prefaced his question by saying that I didn't have to answer it if I regarded it as sensitive.

'I said there was no problem about that and I answered his question simply, in the traditional way, that under our notion of freedom of speech you tolerate statements you disagree with or even statements which you regard as rather dangerous.

'If you happen to agree with what people are saying, that is not toleration. It is when you disagree or regard their statements as particularly harmful and still tolerate those statements that you're respecting freedom of speech.' Mr Justice Bokhary said there was no verbal reaction to his remarks from the students.

'But sometimes you can sense the atmosphere of a gathering. I think the things I said about freedom of speech accorded with their feelings about the matter,' he said.

The judge's comments in Beijing were less than a week after senior mainland official Wang Fengchao sparked outrage by saying local media should not report views that advocate Taiwanese independence.