Courtroom no place for political expression, stresses judge

Top News | Maisy Mok 14 Jan 2021

Courts should not become a venue for political expression, a District Court judge says after barring people wearing yellow masks with political slogans from his courtroom.

Ernest Lin Kam-hung ordered a lawyer and two observers at the gallery - who were all wearing yellow masks that had the acronym "FDNOL" for the protest slogan "five demands, not one less" - out of his courtroom on Monday.

The case being heard continued yesterday - in which four men were sentenced to 19 to 20 months for unlawful assembly and wounding during a clash between Beijing supporters and opposing views in September 2019 at Kowloon Bay's Amoy Plaza.

After the men were barred the judge's secretary said the court would provide masks for those wearing one with political tones. Those who refused would have to listen to the hearing at a livestream area.

When the hearing resumed yesterday, Lin said the ban had nothing to do with the color and style of masks.

He said the courtroom is not a suitable place for political expression and that the court is not making any value judgment on the color of people's masks or their political demands.

Lin added the court will not reject anyone from observing the hearing due to their political background or religious reasons.

The court does not consider a person's political stance and will continue to treat everyone equally regardless of the color of their masks, he said.

The case involved four men who pleaded guilty to unlawful assembly, including one who admitted to wounding during the clash.

Lau Yiu-chung, 31, Chan Kai-yin, 35, and Chan Shui-chuen, 35 were jailed for 19 months for unlawful assembly. Shek Lang-tin, 30, got 20 months for unlawful assembly and wounding.

Lin said the case was a large-scale bullying incident in which defendants threatened, insulted and conducted violence against people who were "not their own kind." He also said it was shocking there were many bystanders and people taking pictures at the scene.

He said videos showed that people who wore yellow reflective vests with the word "Press" printed on them were recording two victims being insulted. Lin said press freedom is indispensable to society and praised journalists for reporting on the truth even in times of danger. But during the incident there were four to five people blocking the victim's path.

Editorial: Justice not blind to political tricks

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