A woman accused of taking photos inside a courtroom was released on bail on Friday pending an investigation, which may be completed next week.

The accused, Tang Lin-ling, was at a hearing related to the clearance of the 2014 pro-democracy Occupy protest site in Mong Kok on Wednesday when Mr Justice Andrew Chan received a complaint alleging that Tang took photos from the public gallery. The incident came after two men were accused of taking photos on separate occasions during a trial related to the 2016 Mong Kok unrest.

The case will be heard again on June 15. Tang is required to stay at an address of her friend in Hong Kong that she provided. Bail was set at HK$50,000. The judge gave her 72 hours to raise the money. Her phone was confiscated on Wednesday.

Tang speaking to reporters outside the court on Friday. Photo: HKFP/Kris Cheng.

‘Unwise’ action

Tang said she works on cross-border mergers and acquisitions, and has a Hong Kong identity card but is not a permanent resident. She uses a two-way permit to enter Hong Kong.

She initially did not have a legal representative. Barrister Kevin Egan appeared in court at around 11:40am on Friday and said that Tang had sought legal advice from him after he happened to meet her on the High Court elevator on Wednesday.

Egan told Judge Chan that there was no referral from a solicitor so he cannot represent Tang, but he was appearing for her as a courtesy. He said he told Tang that it was “unwise” to take photos inside the courtroom.

Judge Chan said if Tang admitted to contempt of court, the matter could be dealt with summarily; if she did not, the case could be referred to the Department of Justice.

He added that the matter could also be dealt with in the ordinary manner under order 52 of the court’s rules for contempt.

‘Very small issue’

Tang told the judge that she believed the incident was a “very small issue.”

She said she was the first person to arrive at the court on Wednesday and was given the first ticket to enter the courtroom’s public seating area. But she said no-one gave her instructions on whether to line up to enter the courtroom, and accused court staff of not having enough knowledge about the rules of the court.

Tang outside the courthouse on Wednesday.

Judge Chan asked her if she saw the sign in the court banning photography. Tang said she did, but she also saw people in the public gallery using their phones: “who gives them the right?”

Tang said she was not a lawyer but she did pass the “Chinese legal bar.” She said she came to the court to learn from top barristers and top prosecutors: “I really want to learn.”

At the end of the morning hearing, Chan stopped Tang and said: “I think you are repeating yourself… I don’t think we can have any constructive dialogue.”

Chan said the case was not an isolated incident of people taking photos inside the courtroom, and that the consequences of doing so may be serious.

He strongly advised Tang to seek legal advice before returning to court at 3:30pm, warning that an arrest warrant may be issued if she failed to show up.

File photo: In-Media.

When the court resumed in the afternoon, Tang refused to allow Egan to speak on her behalf. She said it was because Egan gave her misleading information and released incorrect information to the media, which made her question Egan’s professionalism. Egan denied releasing information to media, and left the courtroom.

Judge Chan said the police were investigating the case, and the DoJ would inform the court of its intended course of action after the investigation.

During a recent trial related to the Mong Kok unrest, two incidents emerged of people allegedly taking photos inside the courtroom. The first took place in February, when a man claiming to be a mainland tourist was found taking photos inside the courtroom and uploading them onto social media.

Less than two weeks later, another Mandarin-speaking man was accused of taking photos during the same trial. Last Friday, the High Court sought protection for jurors in the case after the judiciary received a photo of four jurors in an email.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.