A Hong Kong judge ejected a lawyer and family members of defendants from the courtroom during a protest-related trial Monday because they were wearing yellow masks with pro-democracy slogans.
The trial, presided over by District Judge Ernest Lin, concerned a clash between demonstrators and pro-Beijing counter-protesters at Amoy Plaza, a shopping mall in Kowloon Bay, in September 2019. The four defendants pleaded guilty to illegal assembly and assault, according to Apple Daily.
During the hearing, the judge ordered a lawyer and two observers—both family members of the defendants—to leave or come back with different masks.
The yellow masks they were wearing were printed with the acronym of a popular pro-democracy slogan, FDNOL, which stands for “Five Demands Not One Less.”
Upon the judge’s order, the lawyer returned to the courtroom after changing his mask to a white one. The two observers chose to leave.
One of the observers who asked to be named Ray told Apple Daily: “I feel like I am being discriminated. [I] feel very uncomfortable.”
Another observer, alias Lily, said she refused to put on another mask because that would mean “acknowledging that [she is] in the wrong.”
When Hong Kong’s new Chief Justice Andrew Cheung, who started his job on Monday, was asked about the judge’s order, he said that people can wear clothes and masks of any color, as “Hong Kong is a free society.”
He noted, however, that judges have discretion over how they run their court proceedings to ensure a fair and just trial, and therefore can give instructions based on specific considerations.