Two Hong Kong judges accused of misconduct in cases centred on the 2019 anti-government protests, including ordering court attendees to remove their yellow masks, have been cleared of wrongdoing following judiciary probes. In one of the complaints, Judge Ernest Lin Kam-hung was accused of issuing instructions in the courtroom without justification when he ordered three people in the public gallery wearing yellow masks – a colour linked to protesters – to change the face gear if they wanted to continue attending the proceedings on January 11 last year at the District Court. Lin was hearing the guilty pleas of four suspects who took part in an illegal assembly in Kowloon Bay in September 2019. According to media reports, at least one of the yellow masks worn by the three attendees carried the letters “FDNOL”, believed to be a reference to the popular protest slogan “Five demands, not one less”. The rallying cry was also considered a possible breach of the Beijing-imposed national security law under internal police guidelines. The complaints were first submitted to a three-member panel of judges, before being passed to the advisory committee for consultation. The nine-member committee , including five senior judges, a lawyer and three laypeople, was formed in August last year to give the public a say in disciplinary matters related to the bench, amid a flurry of complaints over the handling of protest cases. Debate ignited after judge orders removal of yellow masks in Hong Kong court The panel of judges concluded that Lin’s instructions were appropriate as the court was not a platform for political campaigns, and that the rights of court users were fully protected as they could continue to observe the proceedings. Lin had provided the reasons for his instructions, with concerns that the court should not be used as a venue for expressing political demands , the panel said, noting alternative face masks had also been offered to the people in question. “After considering the investigation report of the panel of judges and the advice of the advisory committee, the chief justice … concludes that the complaints are not substantiated,” the judiciary said in a report released on Friday. Another complaint against Lin accused him of making “unreasonable and biased” remarks after viewing video footage in court, in which he alleged that reporters at the scene had “constituted a part of the riot” by “standing there” and “preventing the victims from leaving”. The panel ruled that the complaint was also unsubstantiated, saying it was within the discretion of a judge to provide a verbal description when viewing footage produced as an exhibit. “The subject remarks were not meant to be general observations and were not made on a stand-alone basis deliberately targeting the media. They were made, without further observations or objections from the parties, as part of the running commentary in relation to that particular video footage,” the judiciary said. Lin was cleared of wrongdoing, but given a reminder. Hong Kong’s chief justice condemns recent threats against judges “The chief justice considers that, in general, a judge or a judicial officer should be very slow in court in making any suggestions of serious wrongdoing on the part of anyone who is not before the court and who has not been given an opportunity to explain himself or herself to the court. Judge Lin should be reminded accordingly,” the judiciary said in ending remarks. Chief Justice Andrew Cheung Kui-nung serves as the chairman of the advisory committee, which reviews investigation reports by the panel of judges. He makes the final decision on each complaint. Lin was among a handful of magistrates who became the subject of numerous complaints while handling protest-related cases, with Hong Kong becoming increasingly polarised amid the social unrest in 2019. Camps on either side of the political divide had hit out at judges deemed to have favoured their opponents in protest-linked cases. Magistrate Stanley Ho Chun-yiu, another target of grievance, was also cleared of wrongdoing for controversial remarks over a court hearing during which a 15-year-old protester had pleaded guilty to hurling petrol bombs at the Chai Wan Police Married Quarters in November 2019. Ho was cited as saying that “the only person who might be injured was the defendant when being subdued”, drawing accusations he was expressing biased and politically inclined views. Hong Kong magistrate accused of protest bias cleared of wrongdoing The report said it found nothing inappropriate or indicating a political inclination in Ho’s speeches on the acts that the defendant’s conviction was based on. “Nonetheless, the advisory committee is of the view that the public has a high expectation for a judge or a judicial officer (JJO) to maintain impartiality when exercising the judicial power. It is therefore important for a JJO to be careful to avoid giving rise to any misunderstanding or perception of partiality through his words or behaviour in court,” it said. Ho previously faced a string of complaints in relation to several cases he presided over, with allegations he sympathised with protesters by acquitting most of the defendants, and passing lenient sentences on those convicted.