Police Action at Gay Lesbian IDAHO Rally Was “Ill-Conceived and Grossly Insensitive” – Hong Kong Lawyer

The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Hong Kong is in uproar following the disruption by police of this year’s International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) rally on Sunday.

The police, who threatened to arrest organisers and videoed participants in what has been described as a serious attack on LGBT rights and the right to demonstrate in Hong Kong, have been heavily criticised by legislators after 20 police officers halted the rally that took place in the busy commercial district of Causeway Bay on the afternoon of Sunday May 15.

The rally, co-hosted by LGBT organisations in Hong Kong – Amnesty International Hong Kong, Gay Harmony, Rainbow of Hong Kong, Tongzhi Community Joint Meeting (TCJM) and Transgender Resource Centre, was the 7th annual IDAHO rally in Hong Kong.

With a theme of “Born This Way”, the aim of the rally was to protest against homophobia and draw attention to the need for equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Chairperson of the Hong Kong Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) Lam Woon-Kwong and legislator Cyd Ho Sau-Lan both attended and spoke at the rally which had been given prior approval by police.

Citing the lack of a ‘Places of Public Entertainment Licence’ 20 police raided the event during a section of the rally when a group of activists calling themselves The Dancing Angels commenced their segment in which they sought to express this year’s theme through dance.

In what a participant described as “a shocking display of intimidation and harassment”, a uniformed police video unit also filmed the participants who came from all sections of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersexual community as well as heterosexual supporters.

“The Hong Kong police unlawfully disrupted this peaceful rally with casual disregard for our rights as LGBTI persons and Hong Kong citizens,” Reggie Ho, chairman of Tongzhi Community Joint Meeting (TCJM) told UK Gay News by Email.

“We deplore these acts of intimidation and harassment by the police in Hong Kong.  We in Hong Kong pride ourselves on respect for the rule of law and this sort of abuse cannot be tolerated.”

Local legislator James To expressed disquiet about the apparent continuing abuse of the provisions of the Places of Public Entertainment Ordinance by the police in an attempt to suppress peaceful protest.

And Cyd Ho, one of the event’s guests, challenged the police actions calling them “ignorant”.

And human rights solicitor Michael Vidler,  who also attended the rally described the police action as “ill-conceived and grossly insensitive, especially as this was a demonstration against discrimination.”

Organisers have already taken legal advice and are considering instituting proceedings against the police for breaches of the right to demonstrate as enshrined in the Basic Law

They have also called on Legco to investigate the incident and participants to lodge complaints with the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

■ The Tongzhi Community Joint Meeting (TCJM) is an alliance of Hong Kong LGBTI groups that aims to link tongzhi organizations operating in Hong Kong, to assist them in their work and to provide a network for information in both Chinese and English within the tongzhi community.  The TCJM will also research and campaign on issues of key importance.  Tongzhi (同志) is a Chinese word, often translated as ‘comrade’, which refers to people of different sexual orientations and gender identities in the Chinese-speaking world.

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