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  • Dec 29, 2014
  • Updated: 7:56pm
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LAW

Record number prosecuted under tough Public Order Ordinance

45 charged under ordinance last year, compared with a total of just 39 since the handover

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 November, 2012, 8:37am
 

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More protesters were prosecuted last year under the Public Order Ordinance - which carries harsher penalties than other laws commonly used in such situations - than in any year since the handover.

Police laid charges under the ordinance against 45 protesters, compared with a total of 39 between 1997 and 2010. At least three cases were heard by courts in the past two months.

The 45 were among 444 protesters arrested - mostly in three massive protests - and 54 prosecuted in total, police figures, released at the request of the South China Morning Post, show.

Activist Icarus Wong Ho-yin said political prosecutions were becoming more evident since "heavy-handed" Police Commissioner Andy Tsang Wai-hung took office last year.

"The government is suggesting that these protests were affecting public safety," said Wong, who was among eight people given fines and suspended sentences last month after being convicted of unlawful assembly under the ordinance.

"It is like the central government suggesting national security is affected by protests."

He said protesters used to be charged with causing a nuisance in a public place, obstructing a police officer or assaulting a police officer, with jail terms ranging from three months to two years.

But the maximum penalty for unlawful assembly under the Public Order Ordinance is three years when dealt with in a magistrate's court or five in higher courts.

Benny Tai Yiu-ting, an associate professor of law at the University of Hong Kong, said police were legally justified in choosing an offence with a more severe penalty as a deterrent.

Director of Public Prosecutions Kevin Zervos SC said decisions were made independently based on a reasonable prospect of conviction, assessment of evidence and public interest, and discretion was sometimes used.

"There has been an increasing number of demonstrations and increasing number of instances where there has been aggressive and sometimes violent behaviour," he said.

The number of public meetings and processions increased from 1,190 in 1997 to 6,878 last year, police figures showed.

A police spokesman said officers would consult the department of justice before laying charges that might be sensitive and controversial.

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This article is now closed to comments

ianson
While Hong Kong's men in blue are increasingly perceived as the fingernail on the long arm of the Communist Party, the Commissioner being such a good Beijing chum, we can remain thankful that we have somehow, almost miraculously, managed to enjoy the independence of our current SJ and DPP, both highly-respected and unshakeable proponents of the rule of law. Just how much longer will this luxury last? Imagine for a moment those roles in the hands of Party sympathisers. Then we really will have something to complain about.
shafinhk
Since the hand over Hong Kong police has been notorious for abusing their power. Hong Kong has become a notably a police state since this existing commissioner came. We must not forget that he makes secrets trips to Beijing and does not bother to tell the public about this trips. I myself know people being beaten up while in custody and i know people who were not given their rights under police custody. in some cases even lawyer access was denied.
i would recommend protesters to make messy and violent protests, then , at least they can say we did something so we went in. Going to jail or court without doing anything bad does not worth. In Hong Kong protesters are treated nothing more than sheeps in a herd.
andreaswagner
So what is Beijing complaining about? Hong Kong becomes fascist all by itself.
mercedes2233
I prefer to live in a reasonably peaceful environment unperturbed by other people's right to free speech. I have some rights too.
joyalsofi
"Benny Tai Yiu-ting, an associate professor of law at the University of Hong Kong, said police were legally justified in choosing an offence with a more severe penalty as a deterrent." It's good to know that the professor of law thinks protests ought to be deterred rather than defending freedom of speech which includes the right to protest. One can only speculate as to whether his views are indicative of the faculty as a whole or merely the one sought out by the SCMP.
yuuzan
Tai Yiu-ting did not say he thinks protests should be deterred. He only stated a fact in that the law allows police to consider which offence to file. He expressed no personal opinion.
ejmciii
Of course the government and police must deter people from stating their views openly and loudly as that might upset their bosses in Beijing. if people think for themselves and say what is on their mind and that differs from what Beijing wants there will not be harmony. This must be controlled so all HK people can be good little robots and then the Executive has done his job.

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