Police infringed freedom protected in the Basic Law at gay gathering

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 May, 2011, 12:00am


Last Sunday, the police blatantly violated the constitutional rights of a group of Hong Kong citizens ('You can gather but you can't dance, police tell gays', May 16) who gathered for International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (Idaho).

This is an annual occasion celebrated to raise awareness of issues concerning discrimination against sexual minorities.

At a rally of representatives of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities, Equal Opportunities Commission chairman Lam Woon-kwong and legislator Cyd Ho Sau-lan spoke to a crowd of about 200. One of the participating groups, Dancing Angels, decided to convey the anti-discrimination message through dance.

Some 20 policemen turned up with a video camera, demanding that the 'performance' stop immediately, citing Chapter 172 [the Places of Public Entertainment Ordinance], under which the event had to have a licence for public entertainment. They started filming the crowd. Not wanting the incident to escalate and compromise the rest of the programme, the organisers agreed to stop the dance performance. But that did not represent an acceptance of the police action, which was wrong. Article 27 of the Basic Law protects the freedom of expression. A rally that aims to convey the voice of a minority, whether through speeches or other forms of communication, should not be considered entertainment.

It was a waste of taxpayers' money to deploy so many officers for an event conducted peacefully. The police showed a double standard with regard to enforcing the law. Many rallies with music and dance have taken place without an entertainment licence, including an Amnesty International Hong Kong event in Kowloon at the same time as the Idaho rally, but the police cracked down only on the latter event. The police displayed a blatant lack of sensitivity towards sexual minorities. As sexual orientation and gender identity are taboo subjects, it took many attendees a lot of courage to turn up. For the police to film them with such a disdainful attitude was uncalled for and insensitive.

As one of the organisers of the event and a Hong Kong citizen, I am enraged and embarrassed by the police action. Police Commissioner Andy Tsang Wai-hung, who prides himself on being committed to law and order, should explain why his officers took such misguided action and why such a heavy police presence was employed for this peaceful event.

Reggie Ho, chairman, Tongzhi Community Joint Meeting