No legal basis to not authorize peaceful protest against HK police conduct – Analysts

A lawyer and a political activist have told MNA they do not see a legal justification for the Public Security Police Force (CPSP) to have rejected a request by local residents to hold a silent gathering in protest against the Hong Kong police handling of unrest in the neighbouring SAR.

On Thursday police authorities decided not to authorize a request to hold a silent gathering at the Senate Square on August 19 against violence by Hong Kong police towards protesters in the neighboring SAR, on the grounds that it could incite “illegal behaviors” similar to the incidents registered in the last months in Hong Kong.

Police claimed that this kind of protest could lead to actions that would go against the rule of law in Macau, and that it could send the “wrong message” to local society that there is support for the illegal acts taking place in protests in Hong Kong.

Protest organisers – who remain anonymous – have already announced they do not intend to appeal the police decision to the Court of Final Instance (TUI) and warned local residents not to defy the ruling by still gathering at the Senate Square next Monday, since they could be charged with aggravated criminal offences.

“In my view, the decision by CPSP is illegal and breaches the right to gatherings and protests as enshrined in the Basic Law. It has no legal basis […] It’s clearly a political decision but a wrong decision,” lawyer Sergio de Almeida Correia told MNA.

According to the legal expert, article 1 of the gatherings and public protest law in Macau specifies that residents have the right to gather “peacefully and without weapons” in public areas without the need for authorisation from police authorities.

“The only thing the law demands is that people wanting to conduct a public gathering using public lanes must send a written notification of their intention to avoid counter-protests and disturbances to public order. That’s the spirit of the law,” he told MNA.

The lawyer also noted that the reasons for rejecting a protest are also defined in the law, with certain space or time restrictions able to be imposed, or the protests interrupted, but always for the reasons stipulated in the law.

“If the protests are peaceful; if a previous warning was provided; and if the protest does not exceed its purpose or looks to commit acts that go against the law or public order there is no reason to not allow them,” he noted

“The decision in my point of view is clearly abusive, arrogant and proper of a police state and not from a peaceful region under the rule of law such as the Macau SAR […] It’s an unqualified decision that also damages fundamental rights enshrined in the Basic Law”

The lawyer also questioned the fact that police authorities are second-guessing that the real intent of the organisers is to commit unlawful acts, something political activist Jason Chao also expressed.

According to the activist, the subject matter of the assembly was the condemnation of the Hong Kong police’s excessive use of force while quelling unrest in the city, something he considered was a subject of debate, with the CPSP saying the use of force to crack down on illegal and violent acts is legitimate, while some residents defend otherwise.

The activist noted that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) has called on the Hong Kong authorities to “to act with restraint” and observe the international principles of “necessity and proportionality” in a statement on August 13.

“The HKP’s use of force is not unchallengeable and is a subject of debate, in particular, in light of UNHCHR’s statement.  Also, I cannot see that the organiser is seeking to dispute police authorities’ legitimate duty to protect public order,” Chao added.

Therefore the activist considered that the organiser was simply seeking to express his/her opinion on the proportionality of the means employed by the Hong Kong police in the performance of duty.

“The right to freedom of speech is not without limits. However, in the absence of evidence about an ulterior-motive of the organiser, the CPSP should not overinterpret the aim of the assembly as one that condones or encourages any unlawful acts,” Chao told MNA.  

[Photo by Vernon Yuen/EPA-EFE]