A Hong Kong court ruled on Tuesday that a woman who suffered an eye injury at a protest had no right to ask the police to show her their search warrant for her medical records.
Police revealed in September that they had acquired the medical records of an injured woman after successfully obtaining a court warrant. The woman, known in court only as “K” owing to privacy concerns, subsequently launched a legal challenge after police refused to show her the warrant in question.
K, who was injured in the right eye during clashes on August 11, has become a symbol in the city’s seven-months-long pro-democracy movement. She is widely seen as a victim of police violence. Eyewitnesses and local media attributed her injury to a beanbag round, though police have said that the facts were unclear.
High Court judge Godfrey Lam on Tuesday backed the police, saying that their refusal to show the search warrant to K did not affect her right of access to the courts. K was also required to pay the government’s legal fees as a result of losing the court challenge.
In his 30-page judgment, Lam ruled that police were not obligated to present the search warrant to K, even though her privacy was affected by the police search. He said it was enough for the police to show the warrant to Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where K’s records were kept.
Lam added a person does not have a “freestanding right” to ask the police to show a warrant, otherwise, any potential criminal suspect could demand to see search documents related to an investigation into him or her.
The judge said that ruling in K’s favour would have potentially far-reaching negative implications: “In the case of a search conducted or to be conducted on a clinic, a bank or a commercial enterprise, the police would be obliged to produce upon demand the warrants for inspection by potentially very numerous persons whose information might be contained in the materials,” he said.
K was not prevented from accessing courts since she was still able to use “established legal mechanisms” to challenge the validity of the warrant, the judge added.
On August 11, the woman’s right eyeball was ruptured in the vicinity of the Tsim Sha Tsui Police Station on Nathan Road. Her injury required an emergency operation. That night saw protesters use slingshots and Molotov cocktails against police, who responded with tear gas and crowd control projectiles.
The injury triggered an international campaign calling on people to post an image on social media of them covering their right eye in support of the woman, as well as the ongoing protest movement.
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