Hong Kong courts

‘I’m happy to take pictures with you, judge’: more suspected illegal photography in Hong Kong courts

Woman has mobile phone confiscated after High Court hears she was spotted snapping pictures during Occupy protests trial, just days after similar incident

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 May, 2018, 9:06pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 May, 2018, 10:51am

A woman had her mobile phone confiscated by a Hong Kong judge on Wednesday after it was reported she had taken pictures inside a courtroom during a trial related to the city’s 2014 Occupy protests.

The woman – who gave her surname as Tong – said she had captured the images in the interests of “transparency”.

The High Court heard she had been spotted snapping photos while prosecutors were playing footage that opened their case against five men accused of contempt for their actions during a court-ordered clearance of Mong Kok demonstrators on November 25, 2014.

The alleged incident was the fourth suspected case of courtroom photography in as many months.

When confronted with the allegation, the woman replied: “Today is a public hearing … What is the definition of a public hearing?”

Prosecutors will return on Friday with a decision on whether to press charges of contempt of court.

In the meantime, Tong was advised to hire legal representation.

However, she complained that the case was “too small” for her to hire a lawyer, and instead replied: “I’m happy to take pictures with you, judge.”

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Mr Justice Andrew Chan Hing-wai countered: “This is a big issue in my court. Too many people have come to court to take pictures of witnesses and jurors.”

Photography is prohibited in all Hong Kong court buildings, as is the publication of such photos. Signs are on each floor and inside each court as reminders.

Any breach can result in a fine of HK$2,000 (US$255).

The alleged incident came just days after Madam Justice Anthea Pang Po-kam booted all members of the public out of her courtroom following the judiciary’s receipt of a photo capturing at least four of nine jurors hearing the high-profile riot trial of localist activist Edward Leung Tin-kei and four other men.

It was not immediately clear what pictures were on Tong’s confiscated phone, but a report was sent to police.

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She was understood to be a non-permanent Hong Kong resident.

Outside court, she repeatedly told reporters: “It’s a small issue, why are you so interested?”

She also insisted she was “just here as a member of the public”, as she waved her blue admission ticket for the court’s public gallery.

Asked why she took the pictures, Tong replied: “I think everything should be transparent.”

She had seen legal professionals flouting court rules that prohibited eating and drinking and the use of Wi-fi not provided by the judiciary, she claimed.

“People with the legal background showed me what is the law,” she said in English. “I respect the judge and the judiciary here.”