Gay protester takes police chief to court
A participant in an anti-homophobia rally that was interrupted by police for allegedly violating public entertainment laws is taking the commissioner of police to court in a judicial review.
The homosexual man, who has chosen to remain anonymous for now, took part in the International Day against Homophobia rally on May 15. As part of the protest, the pink-clad 'Dancing Angels' staged a routine - until police intervened.
The man's lawyer, Michael Vidler, said the constitutional right to demonstrate peacefully was more important than a law about public entertainment - if dancing in a protest even counts as 'entertainment'.
'If people are going down the street blowing a whistle or banging a drum, they don't want to be threatened with arrest and told that they are performing in public,' he said. 'That will effectively undermine those people's right to demonstrate peacefully. It gives uncertainty, and uncertainty is the enemy of justice. People are entitled to know where they stand.'
Vidler cited the unanimous Court of Final Appeal verdict in 2005 that found 16 Falun Gong members not guilty of obstructing a public place. That decision, he said, demonstrated that freedom of speech overrode minor public inconveniences.
The May 15 protest involved 200 people, event organisers said. Police stopped the dancers five minutes into their routine on the pedestrianised East Point Road in Causeway Bay. They told them they did not have a licence and began to videotape the crowd. Event organisers had a letter of no objection from the police to hold the rally.
'The police treated it like a full-scale riot, the way they videoed everybody. It was an incredibly peaceful demonstration,' he said. 'One has to wonder at the motives.'
Reggie Ho Lai-kit, chairman of the Tongzhi Community Joint Meeting Group, which co-organised the rally, said it was the first time in his 13 years of advocacy for the community that he saw police crack down on a peaceful event in this way. 'It felt like an act of intimidation,' Ho said.
Ho said he did not apply for an entertainment licence because the purpose of the dance was to convey a social message, not to entertain.
A police spokesman said: 'We are duty-bound by law to maintain public order and ensure participants of public activities express their views in a lawful, safe and orderly manner.'