A High Court judge overturned a verdict on Tuesday that found a busker guilty of playing an instrument without a police permit.

Wong Chung-sing was handed a fine of HK$1,200 in January for playing the harmonica and guitar outside Hung Hom MTR Rail Station, but the High Court judge who overturned the ruling said that Wong’s Basic Law right to engage in cultural activities had not been taken into account by the first instance judge.

The judge also said that the prosecution had failed to show that Wong obstructed others or caused a nuisance, and that the burden of proving “lawful authority or excuse” had fallen on Wong rather than the prosecution.

buskers in hongkong
Buskers in Hong Kong. Photo: HK Busking via Facebook.

In overturning the previous ruling, the High Court judge also criticised the existing street performance application process, saying that they were unclear and inconvenient.

Since there is no appeal mechanism, applicants can only make pursue a judicial review challenge if their application is rejected, he said, thus discouraging applicants from going through the procedure.

According to Apple Daily, Wong had been playing music with an amplifier at the footbridge outside Hung Hom MTR Rail Station, and had refused to leave after being given a warning by police.

Wong lodged an appeal to the High Court after he was found to have committed an offence under the Summary Offences Ordinance.

Article 34 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, guarantees residents the ” freedom to engage in academic research, literary and artistic creation, and other cultural activities.”

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.