Hong Kong protest graffiti teen allowed to stay with family

HONG KONG (AFP) - A Hong Kong court ruled on Monday that a 14-year-old girl who was arrested for drawing on a wall used to post pro-democracy messages, could remain in her family's care.

The authorities had been seeking a "care and protection" order for the teenager, which could have seen her taken away from her deaf father, in a case which has sparked concern over the targeting of minors by the authorities.

The girl had been sent to a children's home after being arrested in December for chalking a flower on the "Lennon Wall" - used by protesters to post notes of support for the pro-democracy movement during two months of rallies for fully free leadership elections.

She was later allowed to return to her family on bail and under curfew.

"After considering the facts and based on suggestions made by social workers, there is no need to make such an order now," magistrate Winnie Lau said on Monday.

Prominent pro-democracy veteran Martin Lee, who represented the girl, said the teenager, who was not available for comment after the hearing, "should be happy today". The girl was not available for comment.

The case sparked an outcry from pro-democracy campaigners, and the teen became known as "Chalk Girl" in local media.

The arrest of the teen comes as the authorities face accusations of mounting a campaign of harassment against prominent pro-democracy figures after the camps were cleared last month.

"I can't think of any other reason (for the arrests) other than creating white terror or a politically motivated one," student leader Alex Chow said on Sunday after becoming the latest figure to be detained and released by police.

Other leading figures have been asked to attend police stations this week, including outspoken media tycoon Jimmy Lai and the three founders of the Occupy Central campaign.

Police had also sought a care and protection order for another teenager, a 14-year-old boy who was arrested during the clearance of one of the protest camps in November.

However, that case was dropped earlier this month and the secondary school student, who asked not to be named, expressed anger at his treatment, calling it "extremely unethical" and "politically motivated".

"What the government is doing is below the belt because they are using all means to try to stop young people from carrying out political campaigns. But it will just make us more determined," he told AFP after the decision.

Beijing has pledged that Hong Kong can choose its own leader for the first time in 2017 but insists on vetting candidates - an arrangement protesters dismiss as "fake democracy".

Hong Kong and Beijing have consistently branded the protests illegal.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.