A High Court judge has overturned a magistrates’ court ruling that a street performer breached Hong Kong’s Offenses Ordinance by failing to get a police permit.
Justice Patrick Li said the defendant, surnamed Wong, was protected by the Basic Law when he performed on a footbridge outside the MTR Hung Hom station, according to Apple Daily.
In January Magistrate Chu Chung-keung fined Wong HK$1,200 (US$154) after convicting him of performing in a public place without permission from the police.
Wong appealed the conviction to the High Court.
The case stemmed from an incident in which Wong was approached twice by officers while playing guitar and harmonica.
They warned him his music was causing a disturbance and that he could be charged.
He was arrested when he ignored the warning.
Justice Li ruled that the absence of a police permit for Wong’s performance did not constitute a breach of the ordinance.
Also, he said there was no evidence Wong’s actions caused obstruction or nuisance.
Li said playing a musical instrument in public is a cultural activity protected by free speech under the Basic Law.
He said the magistrate failed to take that into consideration, adding the relevant ordinance does not forbid such activities.
Li agreed that police permits are in the interest of society but criticized the process for lack of transparency and for causing inconvenience to applicants.
Wong’s conviction was dismissed and the fine cancelled.
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