Date
25 September 2017
The Hong Kong police have been accused of high-handedness in making arrests during the street clearance operation in Mong Kok this week. Photo: AFP
The Hong Kong police have been accused of high-handedness in making arrests during the street clearance operation in Mong Kok this week. Photo: AFP

Police accused of indiscriminate use of ‘unlawful assembly’

The police have come under fire for making unnecessary arrests in Mong Kok in the past two days using the pretext of “unlawful assembly”, Apple Daily reported Friday.

Some citizens have complained that they were arrested for no reason. They said they were not involved in the Occupy protests, but were still detained as they just happened to be in the area, either taking a walk or doing some shopping or trying to buy some food.

Barrister Albert Luk Wai-hung said an offence of illegal assembly would only stand if there three or more people gather and prepare to take actions that would disrupt social order.

Luk said people should retain receipts of purchases, which could serve as useful evidence to prove their innocence, if the cases go to court.

According to section 18 of the Public Order Ordinance, it is an unlawful assembly when three or more persons, assembled together, conduct themselves in a disorderly manner and cause anyone to fear that the persons will commit a breach of the peace, or will by such conduct provoke other persons to disturb the civic order. Anyone found guilty could be liable to imprisonment for up to five years.

Luk said if a person yells on a street, it is at most a charge of improper behavior in a public place, rather than constituting an unlawful assembly. However, if the person wears the same type of clothing, such as wearing a mask, helmet, or holds an umbrella, with other people nearby, they could be seen as acting for a common purpose, even though they do not know each other in person.

Luk said citizens should retain receipts of cinema tickets, shopping or meals purchases, or short messages for appointments, to prove that they went to a location for a purpose.

Law Yuk-kai, director of Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, said police officers might have abused their rights by making arrests in Mong Kok the last two days.

As long as people are not acting illegally, they have the right to watch the police carry out their operations. The police cannot arrest people assuming that they are guilty, nor can the police stop people from returning home or visiting shops, he said.

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