The High Court has handed an elderly activist a fine of HK$1,000 for contempt of court after she wore a scarf that said “Reclaim Hong Kong” inside the courtroom during a trial related to the 2016 Mong Kok unrest.
Alexandra Wong, 61, is a regular participant in protests and social movements. She was observing proceedings from the public gallery, and was previously barred from the courtroom after yelling out in the midst of court proceedings earlier in January. However, she was allowed to watch a live broadcast from the lobby – an area which is treated as an extension of the courtroom.
On March 6, guards informed Judge Anthea Pang that Wong’s backpack bore slogans saying “Release political prisoners” and “Oppose mainlandisation.” Judge Pang then reminded audience members that displaying banners is not allowed in court. Wong wore the scarf the next day, and the judge found her guilty of contempt without giving her an opportunity to answer the charges.
Judge Pang said on Thursday that Wong’s act amounted to contempt of court as she had been given ample warning that the display of slogans was not permitted.
In mitigation, barrister Joe Chan said Wong cared about young people and wished to support those who were prosecuted and jailed after the 2014 pro-democracy protests. Wong lives in Shenzhen and wakes up at 5am to attend the trial on each day of the hearing, despite the fact that she has severe arthritis, Chan said.
In a letter to the court, Wong wrote that she understood the seriousness of contempt and will not intentionally interrupt court procedures again. She asked for a light sentence, saying that she did not commit the most serious kind of contempt. She said that she was in an extension of the courtroom, her act was not seen by jurors, she did not have a criminal record and expressed remorse.
Wong said outside the court that she will file an appeal: “I do not believe I should be convicted. Although it is just a HK$1,000 fine, the problem is that I will have a criminal record.”
“I respect the rule of law,” she added.
Wong must pay the fine within three months.
The trial involves protesters facing rioting charges over the Mong Kok unrest which broke out after the government’s attempt to clear street hawkers during Lunar New Year 2016. Among them is activist Edward Leung, who in January pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer and has since been remanded in custody.