Photo scandal sheds light on police procedure

Hong Kong police were forced to release their only remaining suspect in the nude photos scandal after a court gave an interim ruling that the pictures allegedly distributed were indecent, but not obscene.

Chung Yik-tin was released after being held in custody for two weeks.

The ruling undermined the Justice Department case against Chung and prompted further calls for review of police procedures. The magistrate gave Chung a stern rebuke, but awarded him HK$18,000 ($2,100) in legal costs. Legal experts say that Chung can now sue for damages.

The case, which involves the circulation of thousands of explicit photographs of singer-actor Edison Chen and at least seven female celebrities, has caused moral outrage in Hong Kong and China. It has also led to a backlash against the police and authorities.

The Obscene Articles Tribunal said Sunday that while it had been consulted by the print press and one TV station over the Chen photos, the police had not sought its advice.

The collapse of the case against Chung has added to claims that the police made arrests in order to intimidate the public. Opinion polls suggest that half of Hong Kong respondents believe police actions were mainly aimed at stopping circulation of the pictures.

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