Should April 5 Action Group members and fellow activists really feel triumphant over their success in forcing their way into the public gallery of the Legislative Council chamber last Friday? Obviously, the activists, including familiar faces such as Leung Kwok-hung and Koo Sze-yim, think they should. But the local community may not agree. Hong Kong is a free society where most people still respect freedom of expression and approve of individuals or groups who organise themselves to stage protests and to make petitions to voice their grievances over government policies. The community can well understand why the activists feel strongly about the provisional legislature's decision to scrap the labour laws enacted before the handover. But what is in question now is the way the protesters chose to express their views. The activists may think that their protest was meant to uphold justice. The community, they believe, must surely be on their side. But a poll conducted by the Apple Daily showed that about 55 per cent of the respondents did not approve of the activists' protest in the chamber's public gallery. A third of the respondents even said they supported the provisional legislature secretariat's subsequent decision to bar the activists from entering the council chamber. Equally unsympathetic were some callers to radio phone-in programmes. They said that the protest action was too radical; others alleged the protesters were only playing to the gallery. Do the protesters care? If they are really fighting for the welfare of local workers and striving for the community's support for their cause, they should. The activists should understand that even though most people support their right to voice their views in an open society like Hong Kong, the community here is still quite conservative. People are receptive to dissenting views but most of them are unlikely to endorse extreme ways of expressing them. And most are likely to judge the activists on whether the seriousness of the issue over which they are protesting warrants the kind of radical action that they have taken. Based on the community's feedback so far, locals obviously think that the activists have better ways to voice their grievances. The shouting and the scuffles in the Legco public gallery were unnecessary. Mr Leung and his fellow activists may consider the provisional legislature to be a body without legitimacy, but their perception does not change the fact that they have to obey the laws of Hong Kong. And under the Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance, it is stipulated that the law-making body, for the sake of maintaining order and security, is empowered to ensure the proper behaviour and decorum of those entering the Legco building. Of course what constitutes 'improper behaviour' is already set out in the subsidiary legislation, but it is still up to the council to decide under what circumstances they will refuse admission of certain members of the public to the chamber. This is a matter of judgment by the legislature. And given the present political climate in Hong Kong, this is no easy judgment either. By making the protests as the ends instead of the means of striving for the workers' welfare, the protesters are doing the local workforce a disservice. In the eyes of the community, radical protesters are more likely to be seen as trouble-makers instead of defenders of justice. The activists have ended up as losers, not winners, in this case.