Monday, December 05, 2005

Rules for Demonstrations in Hong Kong

Given the size and demonstrable unity of feeling amongst the participants of yesterday's march, it is quite likely that there will be more in the coming months and years as China and its official proxies here in Hong Kong try to duck the issue of a full democratic franchise.

It seems therefore apropos that marchers be aware of the history of laws meant to prevent them from fomenting protests of a more disorderly kind.

A few highlights: don't wave any particularly offensive flags, wear any provocative uniforms (no not of the cosplay kind), and don't be a triad member:
3. (1) Any police officer of or above the rank of inspector may-

(a) prohibit the display at a public gathering of any flag banner or other emblem...
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4. (1) Any person who in any public place or at any public gathering wears any uniform signifying his association with any political organization or with the promotion of any political object shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine of $5,000 and to imprisonment for 3 years.

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5. [the Triad clause-Ed.] If the members or adherents of any society are -

(a) organized or trained or equipped for the purpose of enabling them to be employed in such a manner than such employment usurps, may usurp, tends to usurp or appears to usurp the functions of the police or the armed forces of the Crown; or

(b) organized and trained or organized and equipped for the purpose of enabling them to be employed for the use or display of physical force in promoting any political object, or in such manner as to arouse reasonable apprehension that they are organized and either trained or equipped for that purpose,

then-

(i) any person who is a member or adherent of such society shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine of $5,000 and to imprisonment for 3 years; and

(ii) any person who takes part in the control or management of such society, or in organizing or training or equipping as aforesaid any members or adherents of the society, shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for 10 years and on summary conviction to a fine of $5,000 and to imprisonment for 5 years.
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6. The Commissioner of Police may, if it appears to him to be necessary or expedient in the interest of public order so to do, in such manner as he may think fit by order -

(a) notwithstanding the issue of any permit under section 4(29) of the Summary Offences Ordinance, control and direct the extent to which music may be played, or to which music or human speech or any other sound may be amplified broadcast, relayed or otherwise reproduced by artificial means in-

(i) public places; or
(ii) places other than public places if such music, human speech or sound is directed towards persons in public places;

(b) control and direct the conduct of all public gatherings and specify the route by which, and the time at which, any public procession may pass;

(c) for any of the purposes aforesaid, give or issue such orders as he may consider necessary or expedient.
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17. (2) Any police officer of or above the rank of inspector may-

(a) prevent the holding of, stop, disperse or vary the place of route of any public gathering, other than a public gathering exclusively for religious purposes, whether or not the public gathering is one to which section 7 or 13 applies... if he reasonably believes that the same is likely to cause or lead to a breach of the peace.

17B. (2) Any person who in any public place behaves in a noisy or disorderly manner, or uses, or distributes or displays any writing contraining, threatening, abusive or insulting words, with intent to provoke a breach of the peace, or whereby a breach of the peace is likely to be caused, shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine of $5,000 and to imprisonment for 12 months."
So there you have but a small taste of the many regulations on record. Many of promulgated by the Colonial authorities in the wake of the 1956 riots, violent demonstrations that were in significant part organized by triad societies. The irony of all this, of course, that while the British at the eleventh hour tried to introduce democracy to Hong Kong, also bequeathed it these draconian regulations from the eventful 1950s and 1960s that could now be used against the same protesters. Some of the most invasive and loosely worded regulations were amended in the 1980s and 1990s, but many others are still on the books... let's all hope it will never come to that in the run-up to 2007 and 2008 (when fully democratic elections for the Chief Executive and Legco, respectively, are first permitted by the Basic Law).

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