Wearing a rainbow of patterned bras over their shirts, dozens of protesters have gathered outside Hong Kong’s police headquarters to protest against the conviction of Ng Lai-ying, who was deemed guilty of assaulting a police officer with her breast during a protest.
Lai-ying was sentenced to three-and-a-half months in prison on July 30, for bumping her chest against the policeman’s arm.
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Thirty-year-old Lai-ying had accused the officer of molesting her after he attempted to grab her bag strap and missed, touching her chest.
About 100 people gathered for the “breast walk” in the city’s Wan Chai district, once a hub for the Occupy Central movement, with polticians Leung Kwok-hung and Claudia Mo joining participants.
‘Breasts are not weapons’
In solidarity with Lai-ying, men wore bras over their shirts, as the crowd chanted “Breasts are not weapons”.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Kit Ling, a spokesperson for the “breast walk,” said the police had put forth an unproductive narrative of the incident.
Ling said dismissing Lai-ying’s claims of assault implies that women are wrong to voice their concerns when they feel harassed.
“We think it’s very problematic,” said Ling, who is also the chairperson of the Association for the Advancement of Feminism in Hong Kong.
“We have a common understanding that women should feel comfortable to speak out if they feel they’re being attacked.”
“I think it’s a ridiculous to claim that a woman’s breast is a weapon. We can’t imagine why this happened.”
Lai-ying’s arrest, and the circulated photos of her bloody face during the protest, caused online outrage as newsfeeds were flooded with photos of supporters featuring their – mostly clothed – chests in solidarity.
In a statement to the South China Morning Post, magistrate Michael Chan Pik-kiu claimed that Lai-ying had “used her female identity to trump up the allegation that the officer had molested her”.
Activists maintain that Lai-ying’s conviction had been a sexist ruling, while others see the incident as a sign of a deteriorating rule of law in the face of growing Beijing influence over the city.
The protest Lai-ying attended had been against mainland Chinese shoppers who come to Hong Kong to buy tax-free goods, which they later resell back home.
Since the pro-democracy protests that spread across the city during the Occupy Central movement, the Hong Kong police force has experienced a dip in popularity.
The Hong Kong Progressive Lawyers group has released a statement questioning the decision to convict Lai-ying.
“We observe that there has been an outpouring of public reaction, including many expressions of doubt and disappointment at the findings and sentence in Ms Ng’s case,” it read.
“In light of what has been stated above, we can understand the sentiments behind such [a] reaction.”
According to Ling, about 22 organisations supporting gender equality were represented during Sunday’s protest.
Demonstrators eventually presented authorities with a petition calling for a review of Lai-ying’s case, which Ling said received about 200 signatures.