Ambiguity surrounded the scope of a court injunction obtained by the police, with legal experts on Saturday warning that a lack of clear definitions means it may be used to outlaw any kind of disturbance to police or their families.
The Justice Department sought the injunction to target protesters or people who "doxx" police officers by releasing their details online. The order also bans "harassing, threatening, pestering or interfering" any police officer or family member.
Responding to RTHK's queries on Saturday, the public relations department of the police said they are still gathering information to tell the media about the specifics.
The High Court injunction will be in force until November 8, with another hearing expected to decide on any extension.
Barrister Anson Wong said that the scope of an injunction granted by the court goes far beyond its intention of protecting the privacy of police officers and their families.
He said a person who is having a financial dispute with the spouse of an officer and calling the person repeatedly over this could now be seen as a contempt of court.
Sharron Fast, a media law expert at the University of Hong Kong, echoed Wong's opinion that the injunction banned activity "far beyond doxxing".
"It would certainly capture the chants and name-calling that the police have long wanted to have legislative protection from," she said.
She added that journalists and opposition figures had also been doxxed during the protests but the injunction did not extend extra protections to them.
Antony Dapiran, a lawyer who has written a book about the city's protest movement, described the ban as a "very alarming development".
"[It's a] serious restriction on freedom of expression and effectively criminalises a whole range of perfectly lawful acts which will now be punishable as contempt of court," he tweeted.
The order had created concern among the media due to the new restrictions on publishing photographs of police officers.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association on Friday night warned that the injunction could restrict reporting. The association head, Chris Yeung, said on Saturday that the association is seeking legal advice on the matter.
The Foreign Correspondent's Club is yet to respond publicly.
On Saturday, RTHK found people on the street were also worried about the new police move. A man who gave his name as Patrice said he thinks the scope of the interim injunction is too wide and that it further expands the power of the police force. But he said the court order won't stop him from taking photos of police.
"This is my freedom to take any photo. It wouldn't stop me because that guy is a police officer," he said.
One woman, surnamed Chan, said she thinks the order was fair as the doxxing issue was serious. Chan said people are unlikely to get into legal trouble because of the interim injunction without good reasons.
The uncertainty surrounding the order seemed to have forced some to adopt a wait and watch stance.
A man named Choi said he thinks it'll be easy for people to get into legal trouble because of the interim injunction. So he said he'll avoid sharing any information of police on his messaging groups until he gets more clarity on the injunction. (additional reporting by AFP)
Ban could be used beyond doxxing, fear experts
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