A court in Hong Kong rejected the application of a protection order for 14-year-old girl who drew graffiti at a former pro-democracy protest site.
The girl chalked flowers on Hong Kong’s “Lennon Wall”—the staircase of a government building in the Admiralty district that once held hundreds of Post-it notes bearing supportive messages—on the evening of Dec. 23, and was arrested by police officers and detained for 17 hours.
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Police later applied a care and protection order—normally reserved for cases of extreme abuse or neglect by a minor’s guardians—for “Chalk Girl,” as she was later called, which would split her from her family if granted.
The incident sparked a public outcry, and some Hongkongers organized a number of small scale demonstrations to protest what they perceived was the authorities’ heavy handed handling of a protest minor.
“Chalk Girl’s” supporters claim that the Hong Kong government was trying to make an example of her to deter other youths from participating in future pro-democracy activities.
However, the girl’s supporters needn’t have worried, because a local judge threw out the police protection order application on Monday.
“I can understand why the police made the application,” Magistrate Winnie Lau Yee-wan told journalists outside the court, according to Hong Kong media.
“After reading the social worker’s report, I find that it is not necessary to grant the child protection order at this stage.”
Although “Chalk Girl” has not been charged, the police say that the case is still under investigation.
Pan-democratic lawmakers have voiced their concerns about the police following the court ruling.
Alan Leong, Civic Party’s leader, said that police didn’t follow the normal procedure for applying a protection order by seeking the advice of social workers first, according to the South China Morning Post.
Leong added that police shouldn’t have used the protection order to politically repressed a minor.
“I think the police owe the public an explanation,” Leong said.
Democratic Party’s Wu Chi-wai also said that is was “very rare” for police to request for an urgent protection order.
If police cannot justify their action, Wu says, “people may believe” that court orders are a way for police to “exercise political pressure,” which would cause the public to “lost trust” in the force.