People would not resort to extreme protests if the government listened to them more, a magistrate said yesterday.
David Chum Yau-fong made the remark in Eastern Court as he fined lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip HK$6,000 for participating in an unauthorised assembly but acquitted him of leading the unlawful rally on January 1, 2013.
Chum noted that rallies had been on the rise in Hong Kong in recent years, and said that the court respected the public's right to express their views through protests.
"The matter will not be resolved only through tough court judgments," he said. "If the government considers the public's appeals more, people may not have to take fierce action."
Chan had received police approval for a march from Causeway Bay to the Government House, the court heard. On arrival at the chief executive's residence, he told protesters to surround it.
Some time after this, Chan heard that some protesters were being blocked by the police at the junction of Queen's Road Central and Ice House Street, so he went there and told them to walk to Lan Kwai Fong.
Chum said the assembly was unlawful because it had not been approved by the police. But he also ruled that Chan was not necessarily leading it, despite calling on the protesters to follow him.
"Considering that the defendant is a lawmaker and a public figure, his appearance will attract attention," the judge said. "Many may follow him [on the strength of] just one sentence."
While urging the government to listen more to the people, Chum added that if protesters behaved outrageously, they would give the public a negative impression of their cause.
Chum noted that Chan acted not in his own interests but in those of the protesters so that they would not be blocked by police. At the time of the rally, the lawmaker was on bail from another case in which he was eventually convicted of leading and participating in an unlawful assembly on July 1, 2011.
Chan has appealed against the convictions and the hearing will start next week.