Pictures taken in Hong Kong courtroom found on phone seized from mainland Chinese woman accused of flouting photography rule
Tang Lin-ling denies snapping images, says Jesus told her she was innocent
Three photos showing counsel and respondents in a legal case were found on the mobile phone seized from a mainland Chinese woman accused of courtroom photography, though she told a Hong Kong judge on Wednesday that Jesus believed she did not take them.
Tang Lin-ling’s comments in the High Court prompted Mr Justice Andrew Chan Hing-wai to ask her: “Have you ever suffered from any mental illness?”
“Definitely not,” Tang replied with a chuckle. The court burst into laughter.
A summary trial has been scheduled on Thursday after Tang turned down legal aid and announced that she would conduct her own defence.
“[The lawyer] seems not as professional as I am,” she said in English. “I am quite qualified for the case, I can represent myself.”
Tang was remanded on Tuesday following her failure to post a HK$50,000 (US$6,400) cash bail by Monday – the deadline set by Chan after the woman was seen allegedly snapping photos during a hearing last Wednesday related to the Occupy protests in 2014.
Prosecutor Derek Chan Ching-lung revealed that police had obtained statements from three eyewitnesses and two cautioned statements from Tang, who remained silent but provided the password to her phone.
Three photos taken inside the courtroom were subsequently found on the device. Among those pictured were prosecutors Derek Chan and Jin Pao, defence counsel Lawrence Lok Ying-kam SC and some of the respondents standing trial.
“It’s a public hearing day,” Tang explained in English before switching to Mandarin. “I think this case deserves public interest, it should be more open.”
She added: “Yesterday, I spoke with Jesus and also I was given the understanding that the matter involving photography was not a big deal.”
Twice, the interpreter asked for confirmation: “Who did you talk to yesterday?”
“Jesus,” Tang replied. “He thought that I was innocent. He believed that I really didn’t mean to and that I really didn’t take the photos.”
But Tang also said she thought photography was permitted inside court that day.
When the judge advised her to seek proper legal representation through the Legal Aid Department, Tang asked: “Would they be foreigners or Hongkongers?”
“Does it really matter?” the judge asked.
Tang replied that she had “already lost confidence in foreigners practising in Hong Kong” after her previous experience, on which she did not elaborate.
“I don’t think they’re qualified enough,” she said. “I will consult legal advice from my friends who are lawyers, but I really don’t think this matter is important enough. It does not qualify as a court case.”
Moments later she asked: “May I ask the reason for my remand?”
Tang explained she had failed to post bail because “someone had misappropriated” her cash and credit card – for which she had already made a police report – and said the address she provided was non-existent only because she was unfamiliar with the format of Hong Kong addresses.
When presented with the photographs, Tang said she “discovered some clues” that showed another woman making phone calls and recording videos in court. “If what I did was against the law, obviously what she did was against the law as well,” she said.
She also pointed at a sign that read “No Photography” and asked “if that label applies to that area or the whole area”.
The judge replied: “You can address me tomorrow since you want to represent yourself and I am not your lawyer.”
Photography is prohibited in all Hong Kong court buildings, as is the publication of such photos. There are signs on each floor and inside each court as reminders.
Section 7 of the Summary Offences Ordinance prohibits photography in courtrooms or court buildings, an offence that could result in a fine of HK$2,000.
Those found in breach of the law may also be sued for contempt of court, which is punishable by a jail term.