The police’s differing practices in handling three incidents held respectively on June 4, 5 and 6 has stirred up public debate. Its deployment of a large team to halt the June 4 vigil that did not take place has “hurt its image,” social commentator and deputy director-general of the Association of Synergy of Macau, Johnson Ian, told the Times.
In the first place, the commentator was not convinced by the police’s decision to cite Covid-19 as the reason for barring the vigil. “Mainly because Macau has seen more than a month [free] from new infection,” Ian explained. “Even schools and community activities have resumed. It is not very convincing to the public.”
Looking back at the series of events – the June 4 exhibition, the vigil and the arrest on the evening of June 4 – the handling by the police, in the commentator’s opinion, was “unwise and ugly.”
The deputy director-general of the social affairs concerned group stressed that the city is a Special Administrative Region, and that the city’s special characteristics are a crucial condition for the international community to view it as such.
“It relies on whether [the city] can retain its original characteristics and whether the societies are still free, open and enjoy rule of law,” Ian explained. “The right to commemorate June 4 is an important [criterion] to the international community.”
The commentator emphasized that he does not see “a market” for radicalism in Macau. Most local people despise the idea.
After the arrest of lawmaker Au Kam San’s two daughters and another student on June 4, the police have explained that “one person constitutes a protest and two an assembly.” However, on Monday, the police attempted to clarify that it originally meant, “one person is capable of hosting a protest and two an assembly.”
Vítor Tang, a Macau lawyer, referred to a ruling by the Court of Final Appeal numbered 95/2014, which states: “In general, an assembly means a group of people, in order to reach the goals of exchanging views and discussions, as well as forming collective opinions, grouping together at a certain location.”
The court differentiated an assembly from several situations, namely a simple and accidental encounter, such as an encounter at an exhibition; an accidental gathering, such as a human flow caused by the change of a public road; the lack of an independent and particular purpose, such as a group tour; and the factor of persistence, such as an association.
The lawyer stressed that no court ruling has suggested that the nature of an assembly being for or against a purpose would alter its eligibility. Such a differentiation is not found in the Law 2/93/M – Law governing Rights to Assembly and Protest.
Most importantly, both the Basic Law and the Law 2/93/M protect Macau residents’ rights to hold civil assembly and protest.
This view is shared by lawmaker Sulu Sou. The lawmaker pointed out that the police’s statement on “one person’s protest and two people’s assembly” was sourced from a Court of Final Instance judgment numbered 25/2011.
In the first place, some residents filed the appeal to the court, stating that the stipulation of Law 2/93/M on the minimum number of people calling a protest or assembly was unconstitutional.
They claimed that the stipulation hurt the interests of protests or assemblies called by one or two people.
In response, the court referred to the constitutional explanation by Gomes Canotilho and Vital Moreira, both Portuguese law experts, stating that the minimum number of people to call on a protest is one, while an assembly two.
The lawmaker could not understand why the judgment was “interpreted by the police in a bizarre manner,” stressing that the judgment was to ensure freedom of expression.
The police announced at the Monday press conference that the June 5 event, in which dozens of people showed their support for Beijing’s national security legislation on Hong Kong with banners in their hands and stickers on a semi-double decker bus at the Macao Science Center before parading to the Macau Tower, has been preliminarily categorized as a “festive parade.”
Speaking on the police’s comment, former New Macau Association lawmaker Paul Chan hinted that it was a very dangerous comment. “If the police thinks ‘festive activities’ – even if they are conducted in the form of an assembly or march – do not need prior declaration, I fear that in the future there will be various kinds of ‘festive activities’ held at any time and in any place,” Chan explained. “The law should be equal [for] everybody.”
Student with monochrome flag intercepted by police on June 4
A female secondary school student was stopped by two plain-clothes police officers near the Senado Square, Chinese online media, But Choi Chi Yau, reported.
The police officers showed their passes and requested the girl to lay her belongings on the ground.
She was later brought to a grey seven-seater vehicle that carried five other plain-clothes officers and was driven to the Judiciary Police office in Cotai. There, a search was conducted on her by a female police officer. Her belongings, which included a monochrome flag, a pair of gloves, a pair of eyeglasses, two-sided tapes, white ribbon and a pin, were confiscated.
The police then asked her to sign four documents before commencing an interrogation. She was asked to disclose the time and date of purchasing her belongings. With a “stiff attitude,” as described by the girl, the police officers questioned whether she was part of an organized event and whether she was influenced by the “protest atmosphere” in Hong Kong.
She was also asked to unlock her cellphone for search, which, according to the report, she could not decline as the police told her she had signed consent.
Upon sending her home, the police officers told her not to think Macau has no freedom of expression. The police stressed that the ban on the assembly was only because of Covid-19 and pledged that assemblies will be allowed later.
“You’re still young. Focus on your studies and neglect politics. Stay still,” was the last line the police told the girl.
PJ yesterday confirmed the incident to TDM. AL