Does dancing at a rally constitute public entertainment and require a licence? That's the question the city's top court must consider after police launched an appeal against a lower court's decision in a judicial review case.
The case dates back to May 2011, when a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights activists marked International Day Against Homophobia with a rally in Causeway Bay.
When a group of activists began to dance on stage, police intervened to stop them, telling them they lacked a licence under the Place of Public Entertainment Ordinance.
One of the activists, a man identified only as T, applied for a judicial review. The case was dismissed by the Court of First Instance, but the Court of Appeal ruled in T's favour last year.
Senior counsel Johnny Mok Shiu-luen, for the police, told the Court of Final Appeal the lower court had erred in considering whether the event should be regarded as public entertainment because it had considered only how much control organisers had over admission to the event.
He said the lower court had cited the ordinance in question as using "the concept of control as a limiting factor" and asked the panel of five judges to expand the concept to include whether an organiser had control over "a particular place for a period of time", including leeway to set up seats or a stage.
Mok said the definition of a place of entertainment should not include only enclosed spaces.
The judges asked Mok whether that would mean organisers would have to apply for licences for other celebratory public activities, such as fireworks shows and the regular laser-light show on Victoria Harbour.
Mok said such activities were different because, though they attracted large crowds, those were spread across a vast area. Fireworks shows were excluded from the ordinance, Mok added.
The 2011 rally, in Lockhart Road, Causeway Bay, was organised by Amnesty International and a coalition of rights groups. The speakers included lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan and Lam Woon-kwong, chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission at the time. Police intervened when about 18 activists started dancing on stage.
The case continues today.