Police may face legal test over Li Keqiang visit
Police could face legal challenges over security arrangements for Vice-Premier Li Keqiang's visit that amounted to 'serious interference with human rights', says a legislator and former Bar Association chairman.
A day after the association issued a strongly-worded statement challenging the legal basis for the designation of core security zones from which the public were barred, Alan Leong Kah-kit said such arbitrary decisions could breach the Basic Law and were open to judicial review.
'The designation of such a zone causes serious interference with human rights which are perpetuated in the Basic Law, so it needs strong justification,' said Leong, a senior counsel and leader of the Civic Party.
He was referring to the mini-constitution's article 27, which upholds freedom of speech and demonstration; and article 28, which protects freedom of the person.
During Li's visit last week, a man wearing a June 4 protest T-shirt at Laguna City was taken away by the police as the vice-premier was visiting the Lam Tin residential estate.
Later, three protesting students were locked up in the back stairs of the University of Hong Kong's K.K. Leung building when they tried to reach Loke Yew Hall, where Li was attending HKU's centenary celebration. Police Commissioner Andy Tsang Wai-hung said the man and the students had stepped into the 'core security area'.
Echoing the Bar Association's stance, Leong said no relevant legislation could be found justifying such zones, so Laguna City and part of the university campus could not have been so designated.
Both cited the farmers' protests at the World Trade Organisation's conference in Hong Kong in 2005, saying the area where activities were heavily restricted needed to be gazetted or ordered by the chief executive.
'But the two places could not be such zones, as other activities were ongoing [there] ... and Laguna City is a residential property,' Leong said.
He expected Tsang to be grilled on the issue at a special meeting of the Legislative Council security panel on Monday. Students who were detained are also considering taking the police to court in a civil case or a judicial review.
The Bar Association also demanded a public explanation from the police of the legal authority for the security arrangements.
Law Society President Junius Ho Kwan-yiu was on the side of the police, however, saying there was a legal basis for such 'core zones'.
Citing section six of the Public Order Ordinance, Ho said the police chief had the discretion to decide on the extent of restrictions he considered necessary for national security or public safety. 'The police would be unable to do anything if they had to gazette every single time before they took an action,' Ho said.
The chief of the independent police watchdog said such zones should not be set up without notifying the public. 'Police could put up a visible cordon line if it has to ban activities in certain zones due to security reasons,' Jat Sew-tong, chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Council, said.
The IPCC has received eight complaints about policing during Li's visit, many involving the public interest which needed serious handling, Jat said. They include one from a television station. The council will discuss the complaints with police at a regular meeting on Thursday.
Police would not disclose the number of officers deployed during each of the events that Li attended, but said 2,000 to 3,000 officers were involved on each of the three days.
University of Hong Kong vice-chancellor Professor Tsui Lap-chee - who has offered multiple apologies about security on the campus - will discuss the issue with students in an open forum tonight.