Four slapped with fines as cops break up protest at IFC

Top News | 29 Apr 2020

Justin Tong

At least four people were fined for violating the anti-gathering ban as police dispersed protesters at IFC mall in Central last night.

It came after police issued 40 warnings - but no fixed penalties - as they dispersed a crowd of 500 people on Sunday night at Cityplaza mall in Tai Koo Shing.

The first batch of 100 riot police entered the IFC atrium at around 6.30pm and dispersed about 100 protesters, who scattered throughout the three-story mall.

Multiple crowds appeared later after office workers joined in, with more officers arriving as well.

One of those fined, a man surnamed Lau, said he was merely shopping. He added: "The main point is that police did not give me time to leave their blocking line. Why do I have to pay the HK$2,000 fine if I did not commit a crime?"

That no penalties were issued on Sunday was confirmed yesterday by chief superintendent Kenneth Kwok Ka-chuen of the police public relations branch, though his remarks came amid controversy about the definition of "common purpose" in the anti-gathering ban.

Some people claimed they were shopping on Sunday night when police moved in.

Kwok said officers would not seek to check a person's reason for being around when they were conducting a dispersal on health grounds. But he hoped people would make a fair judgment on enforcement action, saying: "We are facing a public health risk in Hong Kong rather than just the issue of a right to assemble."

Barrister Duncan Ho Dik-hong, a member of the Progressive Lawyers Group, said the issue has gray areas as there is no clear definition for "a gathering."

He cited an example of a silent sit-in of five people 100 meters apart on a football pitch, asking: "Why should this kind of gathering be forbidden if people are far from each other?"

He said it is "weird" there is mention of the distance between groups, "but the law does not state the fundamental meanings of gatherings, common purpose and duration of a gathering."

Tai Koo Shing district councillor Andrew Chiu Ka-yin said he will complain to the Equal Opportunities Commission after an officer taking part in Sunday's dispersal action mocked him about having an ear bitten off in a rally last year.

He said the officer told colleagues that Chiu could not hear their orders because of a lost ear. "The officer was obviously and publicly satirizing me," Chiu said.

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