Police were justified in removing a protester who waved the Tibetan flag during the Olympic torch relay in Hong Kong last year even though the demonstration was lawful and peaceful, a judge ruled yesterday. Mr Justice Andrew Cheung Kui-nung said the removal of University of Hong Kong student Christina Chan Hau-man was necessary to keep the peace in the face of threatening behaviour by Beijing-loyal protesters, who outnumbered the pro-Tibet activists. Mr Justice Cheung, sitting in the Court of First Instance, rejected Ms Chan's application for a judicial review of action taken during a scuffle between protesters and police on May 2 last year. Ms Chan said the arrest infringed her constitutional rights to peaceful demonstration and freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Basic Law and Bill of Rights. According to her claim, she and eight fellow activists rallied near Park Lane Shopper's Boulevard in Tsim Sha Tsui holding the 'snow lion' flag, banners and placards in order 'to raise public awareness of human rights and civil liberties issues in mainland China, the Tibetan region, and particularly the Tibetan people's right to self-determination'. Mr Justice Cheung held that the removal of Ms Chan was justified although he found her protest lawful, peaceful and practically static except for the time when her group was herded by police away from a large crowd of counter-demonstrators. The incident came as tens of thousands of spectators jammed both sides of Nathan Road waiting for the relay to pass. The judge said 'a great deal of national pride, patriotism, strong emotions and feelings were involved' in the relay. Ms Chan's demonstration was provocative in the light of the 'unique and peculiar background' and the tension between her group and the counter-demonstrators was on the brink of an uproar. Evidence from police at the scene showed that the officers and Ms Chan's group were greatly outnumbered by the counter-demonstrators. The court also heard that insults were shouted and people were using flags and flagpoles to interfere with the rally by Ms Chan's group. 'The evidence was that the police officers present were not only apprehensive of the safety of [Ms Chan's group] but also their own safety as well as the safety of other innocent members of the public who were simply there on the pavement, waiting to watch the torch relay,' the judge said. He said the only choice for police was to remove Ms Chan's group or release them back into the crowd, where they would be subject to harassment and threats. The police had initially tried to separate the two groups by forming a protective bubble around Ms Chan's group, but met increasing hostility from the counter-demonstrators, the judge said.