A customs officer has uploaded photo and videos taken inside the Eastern Law Courts Building to his public Facebook profile, in a possible breach of laws.
Paul Fong Fu-pong appears to have taken two of the photographs – one a “selfie” and another of a barrister – inside the courtroom. He has not removed them despite warnings from friends that he may get in trouble for them.
Under the Summary Offences Ordinance, it is an offence to take photographs inside any courthouse. Offenders are liable to a fine of HK$250.
Barrister Chris Ng of the Progressive Lawyers Group told HKFP that the act may also constitute contempt of court. Convictions in Hong Kong are rare as judges or magistrates tend to deliver initial warnings.
“However, the judge is entitled to convict the person in question for contempt,” said Ng. “It did happen in the United Kingdom, where a teenager was jailed for two months for taking a photograph of a courtroom from the public gallery.”
According to Apple Daily, 43-year-old Fong attended a hearing last Thursday on charges of common assault and criminal intimidation for allegedly slapping a man during a spat.
Fong conducted his own defence, arguing that he was a customs officer who received training on legal responsibilities, and would not assault or threaten others.
Ming Pao reported that the magistrate criticised Fong for speaking about irrelevant things and wasting the court’s time. “You are a customs officer – I expect you to be better behaved,” said the magistrate.
The magistrate also criticised Fong for his attitude while examining witnesses.
Series of photographs
Thursday afternoon, he uploaded four photographs that he took inside the Eastern Law Courts Building to his Facebook profile.
Two of them appear to have been taken inside the courtroom – one was a photograph of prosecuting counsel Annie Lai from behind, and the other was a selfie. The others appear to have been taken inside the court bathroom and the hallway.
On Saturday, Fong uploaded screenshots of messages from a friend, who advised him to remove the photographs. “I suggest you delete your posts about this case on your FB [Facebook] account. The posts may constitute contempt of the court.”
“But the proceeding was proceeded [sic] in open court system and had been reported by media reporters,” replied Fong.
On Sunday, Fong uploaded a 20-second video of a quarrel between himself and another man inside the Eastern Law Courts Building to Facebook.
“Sir, you are not allowed to take photographs here,” shouted a voice in the background.
Introducing the video on Facebook, Fong mocked the person with whom he was quarrelling: “Not allowed to take photographs? Then who would believe that this is not [psychiatric hospital] Castle Peak?”
He then uploaded screenshots from the same video to Facebook on Monday.
Last month, police told pro-Beijing lawyer and lawmaker Junius Ho that he would not be prosecuted for taking a “selfie” inside the High Court.
A Department of Justice spokesperson told HKFP that it would follow up with Fong’s case, but that it would not be appropriate to disclose any further details at the current stage.
The spokesperson added that the department did not maintain statistics on the number of people prosecuted for taking photographs in court.
Article originally appeared in Hong Kong Free Press on 24 April 2016