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16 May 2011

Hong Kong police interrupts IDAHO rally, programme cut short

The Hong Police interfered in last Sunday’s International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) rally, cutting the programme short. Police say the organisers were not in possession of a permit for the dance performances but organisers say other similar events didn't require one. Raymond Ko reports.

On the afternoon of Sunday, May 15, a dance performance at the seventh annual International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) rally in the busy commercial district of Causeway Bay came to an end midway after organisers were told by the police that they did not have the required license. 

Over a hundred supporters dressed in pink – this year’s colour theme – and many more onlookers were gathered for the event. The theme of this year’s rally was ‘Born This Way’, with the aim of promoting equal rights for all, disregarding sexual orientation or gender identity. 

The event opened with speeches from LGBT activists and some Hong Kong luminaries, including legislator Cyd Ho Sau-Lan and Hong Kong Equal Opportunities Commission’s (EOC) Chairperson Lam Woon-Kwong. 

“I am wearing black, not pink today, to reflect my sadness in the face of the inequalities faced by LGBT people in Hong Kong,” said Ho, founder of the political party Civic Act-up. 

“The EOC may not have much statutory power, but we pledge to fight for an anti-discrimination bill for LGBT persons,” said Lam, a long-term supporter of LGBT rights. 

The speeches were followed by a dance performance by Dancing Angels, who commenced their act twirling and waving to "All Because of You" a Canto-pop hit by Cass Pang.

Above, right: Chairman of the IDAHO Organizing Committee Reggie Ho.
Top of page: Performance by Dancing Angels that was stopped by the police.

The performance was suddenly cut short when the Chairman of the IDAHO Organizing Committee, Reggie Ho, stepped forward to announce: “The police have requested us to stop the performance as we do not have an entertainment licence.” The crowd booed.

“We are going to respect their decision, as Hong Kong is the land of the rule of law,” said Reggie Ho. “However, we want you (the police) to know that what we are doing here is to fight for equal rights for all, including your rights.” 

The police said that the group did not have a ‘Temporary Places of Public Entertainment Licence’, and that therefore the dance performance was not allowed. 

Ho told Fridae that the police had in fact watched a rehearsal of the dance performance right before the event started, and did not mention that the organisers were not in possession of a valid license to stage the show. 

As a result of the interference, the programme of the event was dramatically cut short, with the 20-minute art performance cut down to less than five minutes. A 10-minute sing-along was also scrapped. The remaining activities, including the taking of photos of couples and the tying of pink ribbons to a symbolic ‘wishing tree’ went ahead as planned.

Police video-recorded the proceedings on the stage before the dance
performances began. The video recording equipment was withdrawn
after the dancing stopped.

The rally had, from the start, met with a heavy police presence and the police video-recorded the proceedings on the stage before the dance performances began. The video recording equipment was withdrawn after the dancing stopped, though six to seven police officers remained at the site. 

“This is over-policing. Your presence is an act of intimidation, and violates our right to freedom of speech. Please withdraw,” argued solicitor Michael Vidler. This was to no avail.

“It is strange that the police should prohibit LGBT people from expressing themselves through dance. This has not happened with other events I know of, such as gatherings promoting racial tolerance, in which ethnic dances were performed. I think this is an infringement on our freedom of speech. We shall certainly look into this incident,” commented Madeleine Mok of Amnesty International, one of the organisers. 

Her comment was correct; all LGBT public events held so far in Hong Kong have included some form of celebratory performances, and none have so far been similarly banned. In fact, Amnesty International Hong Kong had a rally in Kowloon at the same time, which included music and dancing but did not require a license. 

Ho acknowledged in an interview with Fridae that when organisers were applying a "notice of no objection" for the rally, the police told the organisers they "might" need a performance license. 

“But we felt that it was more for events of much larger scales and actual entertainment purposes, not for a 20-minute segment of dancing to convey an anti-discrimination message. That view has been echoed in the press by legislators James To and Cyd Ho. And because there were rallies with music and dance before without such a license and there were never any problems, we went ahead without. It was only when the police turned up with camera during the event that they told us that they were acting on Chapter 172 Places of Public Entertainment Ordinance.” 

Despite the police interference, attendees thought that the rally had achieved its aims. “I saw many pedestrians stopping by to see what this was about. I think that will help to spread the message of equality to the wider public,” said Brian, an attendee. 

One participant even thought that the police interference was helpful to the cause: “This act of suppression only helps to bring people together. This event has really helped to build a bridge of communication and cooperation between different LGBT groups in Hong Kong,” said Anshuman Das. 

The seventh IDAHO rally was organised by the following groups and organisations: Amnesty International Hong Kong, Gay Harmony, Rainbow of Hong Kong, Tongzhi Community Joint Meeting, and Transgender Resource Centre.

Hong Kong


回應#1於於2011-08-13 17:36被作者刪除。
2. 2011-05-17 02:13  
i agree i can understand the frustration if the police deny a permit, but by now any gay event will be targeteed, so why not be prepared?

it kind of gives the police the upper hand. same as in singapore, no permot, no event of any calibre, esepcially gay
3. 2011-05-17 02:13  
i agree i can understand the frustration if the police deny a permit, but by now any gay event will be targeteed, so why not be prepared?

it kind of gives the police the upper hand. same as in singapore, no permot, no event of any calibre, esepcially gay
4. 2011-05-17 03:10  
Next time when straight people have a rally, we'll cut them short as well.....for not having a 'holding-hands-in-public permit'. Why is it, that straights are more stoopid than gays and can't enjoy themselves?
5. 2011-05-17 06:12  
The police should use their energy & time to close down all the illegal triad establishments that operate in HK. But then again since they get paid off with tea money to look the other way they would never think of doing that.
6. 2011-05-17 09:34  
well said bobochan88.
7. 2011-05-17 09:47  
hmm.. when will we be able to stop living in fear and self-doubt I wonder..? :|
8. 2011-05-17 11:05  
Organisers should double confirm to check with relevant government departments all the necessary permits since gay parade is always a controversy issue police may deliberately spite PLU.
9. 2011-05-17 11:08  
Thank you for the compliment paksu69. I lived in HK for 24 years so I speak from experience.
10. 2011-05-18 03:02  
I think the HK police filmed the dancing because they are closet gays, that is all. :)
11. 2011-05-18 03:02  
I think the HK police filmed the dancing because they are closet gays, that is all. :)
12. 2011-05-18 04:37  
I think the police shutting down a protest against homophobia based on an obscure entertainment permit defines EXACTLY why there was a protest to begin with! Although the authorities may see this little incident as a victory, the end result will backfire on them as it now has generated a news item that will be carried all over the world making the HK authorities look like intolerant bigots.
13. 2011-05-18 05:21  
so let me get this right ... the organisers didn't check if a permit was required (i don't believe that "might" story - if he got a "might" he should have checked further), and then cry "victimisation" when they are shut down for not having one?! how about we stop being victims and start exercising common sense. i was at the sk2 party in bkk a few years ago, a similar thing happened, but basically the fault is with the organisers. if they had checked, established a permit was necessary, and THEN were shut down, there are grounds to claim victimsation. just because some other group got away with it, doesn't mean we should assume anyone else will (gay or straight)
14. 2011-05-18 09:22  
If a country views g and l as "illegal" or "immoral", whatever healthy activity, you wont get permit.

Unless the organizer smart enough to apply the title like safe sex awareness blah blah, then i guess is more easy to get a permit.

If talk abt mind set openness, a lot of so called more-developed countries still far behind Taiwan, Nepal, Thailand and India. I never heard in Japan, Korea organize any G L thing so far, even straight bizarre sex magazine is readily available on shelf.
15. 2011-05-18 13:34  
We need to be clear about the nature of the police action on the 15th. This is not just a case of a falure by organisers to obtain a licence. The police have acted to alter a status quo.
Apart from the seizure of the Goddess of Democracy in Times Square in June 2010, the police have never before taken action to prevent any form of performance at a political event. The dance was not an 'entertainment' covered by the law but a 'political expression' guaranteed by HK's constitution, the 'Basic Law', and by legal precedent. Legal advice is that the police action was illegal.
The very obtrusive police presence and their filming of all those present was also intimidatory and will give rise to a legal complaint of harrassment.
回應#16於於2011-08-13 17:36被作者刪除。
17. 2011-05-20 07:52  
How sad some fridae friends here blame the victims (the organisers)... Even with twelve permits in your pocket, narrow-minded authorities can simply invent a 13th requirement on the spot. So get real, folks! Kudos to the guys and gals that danced and spoke up! Keep knocking...
回應#18於於2011-05-26 14:57被作者刪除。
回應#19於於2011-05-26 15:30被作者刪除。
20. 2011-05-26 15:31  
Now that's disturbing...I 've never recalled HK police cracking down on glbt events or demonstrations in the past. Could it be part of a sinister overhaul of their policies??? Or worse, interference from the Central Govt in Beijing??? Let's most certainly hope this isn't the case.
21. 2011-06-05 21:56  
So far, there is no evidence to suggest the police targeted the LGBT community. That being said, the action on that day was wholly unjustifiable, and it was an infringement on civil rights.

Political speech encompasses words, actions, conduct and deeds, etc. In Hong Kong, the Court of Final Appeal affirmed in YEUNG MAY-WAN v HKSAR that "[the freedom to demonstrate and freedom of speech] are at the heart of Hong Kong’s system and it is well established that the courts should give a generous interpretation to the constitutional guarantees for these freedoms in order to give to Hong Kong residents their full measure." Simply put, the lawful exercise of these rights should be facilitated as much as possible, and any infringements should be narrowly tailored, focused and justifiable in a free and open society.

Now consider some facts of the rally:

1. It was held lawfully and peacefully;
2. The organizer obtained the necessary permit to hold such rally;
3. The rally was political in nature; and
4. Speeches and performances associated with the rally were political not entertainment.

The police, rather than facilitating the rally, harassed the demonstrators (filming people by the authorities in a peaceful assembly can be seen as an act of intimidation. It is quite different than filming high-profile/well-known protestors with a record of causing trouble), then forced the organizer to cut short the program (effectively killing a good part of the rally) because the organizer did not have an entertainment permit.

The whole entertainment permit pretext is dubious because no fair-minded person could fathom the notion that a performance in a political rally is a public entertainment and hence the need to apply for a permit. Furthermore, even if the definition of entertainment was to construe to include performances in political gatherings/demonstrations, the idea that one needs to apply for a permit before making a political expression through a public performance is revolting and flies in the face of the CFA judgement in YEUNG MAY-WAN v HKSAR.

So my questions are simple:
1. What were the police thinking at that time? How far up in the chain of command did the enforcement order come from? If the top-brass gave the order, was it under the explicit or implicit order from their political master?
2. Considering the same modus operandi in last year's seizure of the Goddess of Democracy in Times Square, does this represent the police are now using heavy handed tactics to deal with political rallies and demonstrators without regard to the actual circumstances?

Kudos to those who have spoken up. It is very important to keep pressing for answers and to hold the authorities' feet to the fire. At the same time, it is shocking that some people here (presumably members of the LGBT community) blaming the organizer. When it comes to defending civil rights, there is no room for complacency. If we are not vigilant, our fundamental rights could be curtained a little here and a little there, and by the time one realizes the damage that has been done, it's too late to regret.
修改於2011-06-05 22:14:09




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