22 January 2019
A Putonghua-speaking woman surnamed Tang was found to have taken pictures inside the courtroom on Wednesday morning. Photo: HKEJ/i-Cable TV
A Putonghua-speaking woman surnamed Tang was found to have taken pictures inside the courtroom on Wednesday morning. Photo: HKEJ/i-Cable TV

Woman faces legal liability after taking courtroom pictures

A Putonghua-speaking woman was found to have taken photos in court, which is banned by Hong Kong law.

The woman surnamed Tang was in the courtroom on Wednesday morning while High Court Judge Andrew Chan Hing-wai was trying a contempt of court case in connection with the Mong Kok clashes of February 2016, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

After learning that Tang had taken photos during the trial, Chan ordered her to take the witness stand and questioned her.

Tang, who said her mother tongue was Putonghua but insisted on speaking English, was working in the legal field, according to media reports.

She said she had the right to remain silent and refuse to respond to the judge’s questions. Still, in response to the judge’s question, she asked: “What is the definition of a public hearing?”

Tang said she could take photos as much as she wanted. “I’m happy to take pictures with you, judge,” she added. 

She said it was necessary for a public court hearing to have transparency.

She noted that some legal representatives were browsing the internet and using mobile phones outside the courtroom, and the court should treat everyone equally.

Tang also questioned whether it was fair to allow so many people inside the courtroom, noting that only one lawyer and a staffer are allowed under Chinese law.

Chan then told her that he is not interested in her accusations against others and asked her if she could make mistakes just because others did.

Tang responded by saying that she was only expressing her personal feelings.

Chan permitted her to leave the court temporarily so that she could hire legal representation. Tang then asked the barristers inside the courtroom whether they would be willing to offer her assistance.

She described her picture-taking as “too small issue”, only to be rebuked by Chan, who said it was a “big issue in my court” as too many people have been found taking pictures of jurors and witnesses recently.

If the public considered the case a small issue, they would have thought they could do whatever they wanted in court.

Tang later returned to the courtroom but without any legal representation, saying that she was advised to handle the matter by herself.

Chan then adjourned the case until Friday, pending the receipt of the opinion of the Department of Justice. He also ordered Tang to hand over her phone and not to leave Hong Kong in the meantime.

Under the Summary Offences Ordinance, any person who takes or attempts to take a photograph inside the court or publish any of those photographs can be fined up to HK$2,000. In common law, a person who took a photograph in court could also be liable for contempt of court.

The case came after photos of four jurors in the high-profile Mong Kok riot case were sent to an email account managed by the complaints office of the judiciary last Friday.

The anonymous sender of the pictures claimed to have more photos of the jurors, raising concerns about interference faced by jurors when they perform their civic duty.

– Contact us at [email protected]


EJI Weekly Newsletter

Please click here to unsubscribe