Court of Appeal upholds gay activist’s right to dance at 2011 rally

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 January, 2014, 4:50pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 January, 2014, 5:39pm

The Court of Appeal has upheld a gay activist’s right to dance during a 2011 rally by rejecting a police appeal.

The judgement, handed down on Wednesday, agreed with a ruling in July last year in favour of the gay activist, identified in court only as T.

The activist’s lawyer says the latest victory would prevent the police from misusing their power in stopping people from demonstrating, particularly under the Occupy Central movement.

T won the appeal after losing a judicial challenge to the police's decision to bar him and more than 100 participants from dancing during a 2011 demonstration for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights.

Police said the organisers did not obtain a licence for the dance performance under the Places of Public Entertainment Ordinance, despite having granted permission to the demonstration.

The Court of Appeal said the dance performance did not merit the use of the ordinance as one is required to obtain a licence only if one has control over audience admission.

T’s lawyer, human rights lawyer Michael Vidler, told the South China Morning Post that they agreed with the Court of Appeal’s decision and that their victory was not only relevant to the LGBT community but to all Hong Kong citizens seeking the right to demonstrate.

“The reason why the police had fought to do this is because they had been trying to use a piece of subsidiary legislation to extend their powers to control demonstrations,” said Vidler. “This is an important case that has wider implications for all demonstrations, especially in the lead-up to Occupy Central.”

Occupy Central, which began as a movement against corporate greed and formed during the rise of Arab Spring-inspired Occupy protests around the world, said it would hold a referendum for universal suffrage in June, ahead of its plan to have 10,000 activists blockading the streets of the city’s main business district.

After Wednesday's ruling, the commissioner of police still has the option to take the case to the Court of Final Appeal.

Vidler said his client would fight it should the police choose to do so, which he said would be “a waste of public funding”.

The rally in question was held on May 15, 2011, to mark the 7th International Day Against Homophobia. Lam Woon-kwong, then chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission, lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan and about 100 others attended the rally.

Correction: A previous headline misidentified the gay rights rally as an Occupy demonstration.