Activist wins fight over police order to stop dancing at rally

Court of Appeal victory stops officers misusing law, says solicitor for gay rights protester

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 August, 2013, 10:04am

The lawyer for a gay rights activist says his successful appeal against a police decision to stop him and others dancing at a rally means the force can no longer misuse the law to curb demonstrations.

The protester, a homosexual identified only as T, was in a group stopped from dancing because police said they needed a licence under the Places of Public Entertainment Ordinance.

His judicial review of the decision was thrown out by the Court of First Instance but that decision was overturned yesterday by the Court of Appeal. The court will explain its reasons in a judgment to be handed down later.

T's solicitor, human-rights lawyer Michael Vidler, said his client was delighted.

"Effectively, the ruling means that police can no longer misuse the ordinance to impose through-the-back-door additional restrictions on demonstrations," he said.

"This decision comes at an important time in Hong Kong - not only for Hong Kong citizens seeking to exercise their right to demonstrate, but also for LGBT members of the community wishing to express their views free from police harassment," he said. LGBT refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people.

The rally in question was held by members of Amnesty International and an alliance of LBGT groups in Causeway Bay in May 2011 to mark International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. The Equal Opportunities Commission's then chairman Lam Woon-kwong, lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan and about 100 others attended.

A section involved dancing and artistic expression by about 18 volunteers on a stage set up for the purpose.

Lawyers for T had argued that the dominant purpose was the promotion of social justice, not entertainment.

Billy Leung, of Pink Alliance, said invoking the law had been both "both ironic and absurd". He added: "Hong Kong people who express their views in a peaceful manner should not have to fear police harassment for exercising their rights."

Meanwhile, the Society for Truth and Light, a conservative Christian group, has claimed an article by the current Equal Opportunities Commission chairman Dr York Chow Yat-ngok on discrimination against sexual minorities is biased and included unreliable data.