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Hong Kong courts

Protesters were not committing a crime because they were not warned they were committing a crime, Hong Kong barristers argue

Without a warning, any disruptive behaviour, such as a cough or a snore, could also be considered criminal under such a ruling, lawyers argue

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 August, 2018, 9:57pm
UPDATED : Monday, 13 August, 2018, 9:57pm

Four protesters convicted of unruly behaviour in Hong Kong’s legislature should have been told they were being disruptive before being arrested and charged, a court heard on Monday.

Lawyers for Bobo Yip Po-lam, Wong Kan-yuen, Cheung Kwai-choi and Chow Nok-hang said the lack of such a warning from a Legislative Council official had led to the quartet’s wrongful convictions at Eastern Court in 2015.

Any disruptive behaviour, no matter how trivial, such as a cough or a snore, could also be considered criminal under such a ruling, the lawyers added.

They urged the High Court on Monday to acquit the four, who had prevented the Legco doors from closing, erected a banner, and remained in the lawmaking complex in Admiralty during a 2014 protest against government funding for a development project in the northeastern New Territories.

The rule at the centre of Monday’s appeal states those in Legco “shall behave in an orderly manner” and “comply with any direction given by any officer of the council for the purpose of keeping order”.

Defence lawyer Martin Lee Chu-ming SC argued two parts should be read together, rather than separately, to warrant a conviction.

Lee asked the court to consider a journalist who coughed loudly while covering a Legco meeting or a member of the public who dozed off and snored during a meeting.

Without a warning, such acts would also be a crime, Lee argued.

As he spoke, the 80-year-old let out a cough himself and quipped: “If I were in Legco, I would be in trouble.”

Yip was originally jailed for two weeks, while Wong was jailed for three. They also appealed against their sentence.

Their lawyers said the demonstration was peaceful, and there was no evidence that the violation was premeditated. While Yip could be punished with a fine, Wong should be considered for a community service order, they argued.

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Countering, assistant director of public prosecutions Ned Lai said the highest court, the Court of Final Appeal, had already ruled that no warnings would be required as long as a person had caused disruption to Legco.

Mr Justice Albert Wong Sung-hau will hand down his judgment on October 10.