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Tuesday June 22 9:48 AM ET

Hong Kong: It Wasn't Harassment

HONG KONG (AP) - It may be rude and offensive, but a Hong Kong court says working men are free to talk dirty and bare their chests in front of women without being accused of sexual harassment.

Obscene language in front of women is ``impolite'' under any circumstances, but does not always constitute a sexual request, Judge Wally Yeung said in a written ruling issued Monday.

``I am not encouraging people to use foul language, but I understand it is a very common activity for some classes of people,'' Yeung said.

Yeung threw out three lawsuits brought by Cheng Yin-fong, who claimed she was sexually harassed by three working men who responded with foul language when she confronted them about their bare chests.

``It is clear that the purpose of their activities was to reduce their body heat,'' said Yeung. The judge found no legal grounds for a claim of sexual harassment, saying their action ``was definitely not a sexual request.''

The men were apparently strangers to Cheng. She encountered two of them while walking by a newspaper stand and a third while walking by an outdoor food stand.

The judge said Cheng's legal actions had been ``tantamount to abusing the legal procedure.'' He ordered her to pay unspecified court costs. The defendants also included a housing project and surveying firm that employed the workers.

Hong Kong laws require a professional relationship between two parties before an unwelcome sexual overture can possibly be classified as harassment.

Copyright © 1999 The Associated Press.