Young lovers' case highlights indecent double standards of Hong Kong justice

Mike Rowse says serious cases of alleged misconduct should be expedited

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 May, 2015, 11:00pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 May, 2015, 11:00pm

Hong Kong's answer to Romeo and Juliet face a second court appearance later this month that could leave them with a criminal record which takes away their future.

Unless, that is, Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen steps in and orders the prosecution halted in the public interest. I think he would be wise to do so.

First we need to get some facts on the table. Two students - both from the mainland, not that it should matter - attending different universities in Hong Kong are accused of having sex in public, albeit in the early hours.

Someone taped the whole episode and uploaded it onto the internet. The police were able to identify the participants and, within a few days, arrested them.

They have already made one court appearance and have a second date fixed.

Although I haven't seen the tape, several things about the case seem to cry out for attention. First, both were above the age of consent. Second, nobody was forcing anyone else to participate.

Now, on the scene at the time were only a few people, one of whom made the video. The police were not apparently on the spot to catch the pair in flagrante delicto.

What brought about their involvement was the fact that the love-making was in public, but what potentially brought in the wider public was the video. So has the person who filmed the scene and uploaded it been identified and arrested? Has he been pursued with the same degree of determination and efficiency?

Apparently not, but I feel bound to query the omission bearing in mind that he has - if the same standards are being applied as to the couple themselves - published pornography.

When we are on the subject of people being caught on tape carrying out illegal acts, we might also think of the seven police officers captured on video beating an unarmed activist after pulling him out of a public demonstration.

That tape I have seen, as have most of the other seven million residents of Hong Kong, and there is no confusion about what happened. The incident occurred many months ago, but none of the seven has yet seen a courtroom or even been charged.

And if we take a further step back and extend the scope from videos to include photographs, then most of us will have seen the pictures of a (now former) chief executive accepting inappropriate levels of hospitality from business friends.

That incident took place several years ago, and we have been assured for many months that a decision on the case is "imminent". Only if we are measuring time in geological terms apparently.

But let's get back to our young lovers. They face a charge of committing an act outraging public decency.

Just stop and think for a moment, Mr Yuen. What really outrages the public is the blatant double standards being applied to these cases.

Just to be clear, I am not calling for Donald Tsang Yam-kuen to be prosecuted. But a decision does need to be made without further ado about whether what he did was just a foolish mistake, which can be dealt with at the disciplinary level (in which case, the humiliation he has already suffered might be deemed punishment enough) - or whether it was a case of criminal misconduct, in which case he deserves his day in court. Similarly with the errant policemen.

To drag out serious cases for many months or even years while bringing minor cases to court within a few days undermines respect for the rule of law. And that's the naked truth.

Mike Rowse is managing director of Stanton Chase International and an adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. mike@rowse.com.hk