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Hong Kong courts

Mainland Chinese woman in trouble for taking photos in Hong Kong court not alone: other pictures are already online

The city’s courts are a strangely popular place for social media posts

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 May, 2018, 10:10pm
UPDATED : Friday, 25 May, 2018, 11:46pm

The recent case of a woman who apparently flouted the law by taking pictures in court during a trial is hardly an isolated incident, with other shots from inside court already online on tourists’ social media accounts.

On Friday Tang Lin-ling, a mainland Chinese woman who took photos during hearings related to 2014’s pro-democracy Occupy protests, was told by the judge to stump up a cash bail of HK$50,000 (US$6,400) and ordered not to leave the city, as police continued their investigation into her.

Tang is scheduled to return to court on June 15, when the Department of Justice is expected to reveal if she will be charged. 

But she is not the only mainland visitor to have taken photos inside a Hong Kong court, a trawl of social media posts has revealed.

On popular platforms including Instagram and Sina Weibo there are at least 10 pictures from inside the High Court building, posted by visitors since 2014.

Public barred from Mong Kok riot trial after leaked juror picture

“Visited the High Court yesterday and ran into ‘Long Hair’,” mainland Weibo user “youngtiger1974” wrote last week, referring to former lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung. The user, who claimed in his online biography to have been a judge for 10 years on the Intermediate People’s Court in Henan and Guangdong provinces, uploaded the picture of Leung sitting in the High Court lobby, and another outside Court No 12.

Another mainland tourist, “User 394003”, uploaded a picture last July of a friend peeping into an apparently ongoing hearing, where a lawyer could be seen addressing the court. She posted next to it on Weibo: “We heard a drug trafficking case, so scary!”

On several mainland tour guide websites, Hong Kong’s High Court is cited as a place where visitors can immerse themselves in the real-life environs of scenes shown in television dramas.

“If one wanted to go to visit, re-watch one TVB drama or search online,” a visitor named Candi Su observed, while she uploaded pictures of the area outside Court No 33.

An Instagram user in 2015 uploaded a photo of a High Court judge in his office, wearing the signature red robes.

Section 7 of the Summary Offences Ordinance prohibits photography in court rooms or court buildings, which may attract a fine of HK$2,000. Those found to have breached the law seriously may also be sued for contempt of court, punishable by a jail term.

The judiciary declined to comment on whether it would follow up on what was on social media, saying it would “not comment on individual cases”.

Tang’s impromptu photo shoot was not the only recent apparent breach. Last week, soon before the court delivered a verdict on localist Edward Leung Tin-kei over the 2016 Mong Kok riot, an unidentified person emailed the judiciary’s complaints office, attaching a photo of at least four of nine jurors.

Tang works in the mergers and acquisitions trade. She told Mr Justice Andrew Chan Hing-wai that she was legally trained and wanted to learn the city’s legal system, but said court officers had “failed to provide instructions and help”.