Minimum restriction the key to exercise of rights

Press release

1 October 1999

Human Rights Monitor welcome the restraint both police and demonstrators have exercised in relation to the demonstration by the April 5th Group and Forget Not June 4th about 200 meters away from the venue of the Flag Raising Ceremony.

We highly commend the police's decision to allow the demonstrators to protest at a site not too far away from the ceremony. We also recognise that because of this relative closeness there was more need to regulate the volume of the demonstration.

However, we advise the police to ensure that any restrictions they place on the exercise of rights of should be strictly necessary for legitimate social needs in accordance with international and Hong Kong human rights law.

Human Rights Monitor recognise that the Flag Raising Ceremony is a solemn occasion. However, demonstrators expressing their political dissent deserves no less protection. The conduct of the Ceremony could not in itself be a sufficient reason for prohibiting the use of any amplification device by the demonstrators irrespective of the volume of noise. Unless there is good reason to believe that demonstrators' loudhailers are disrupting or are wholly to disrupt the ceremony other than expressing their views there is no justification for prohibiting them.

The police informed the demonstrators (at 7:07 a.m.) before the start of the procession of demonstrators that amplification devices should not be used from 7:40 to 8:15 a.m. when the ceremony has been expected to be in progress. Without proofs to the contrary, we consider this was a mistaken prejudgement of the situation as to disruption, apparently contravening the IPCC's recommendation made after the Beethoven Fifth Incident, which has been accepted by the police, that "Police should normally act under the presumption that demonstrators are doing no more than exercising their freedom of expression protected under the Basic Law and the Bill of Rights unless their is very specific and reliable information to the contrary."

If contrary to our present understanding the police has in fact gathered cogent evidence to prove that it was necessary to restrict the noise of the demonstration, the police should still review whether it was necessary to prohibition the use of all amplification device and their decision to confiscate their equipment by force, exposing demonstrators and police officers to possible injuries and curbing the rights of these demonstrators to demonstrate. Human Rights Monitor believes that regulation of volume was the only right option if restriction was demonstrably necessary. As noted above, international human rights jurisprudence requires that limitation of rights must be proportional to the problem arising so as to ensure that persons affected are able to exercise their rights as far as possible whatever restrictions are unavoidable.

Finally, Human Rights Monitor thank the police force and demonstrators for their assistance in our monitoring exercise.

1999 (c) Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor

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