A lack of respect for laws and the courts

The decision by bodies like the Hong Kong chapter of Amnesty International to criticise the convictions of Occupy activists casts groundless doubts on the integrity of the judiciary.

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 July, 2016, 1:35am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 July, 2016, 1:35am

For a long time, student protesters and leaders have got off scot-free in the courts. Now, suddenly, the tide seems to have turned.

Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Alex Chow Yong-kang and Nathan Law Kwun-chung, the three leading lights of the Occupy protest movement, have been convicted of inciting others to join an unlawful assembly, the first criminal convictions stemming from the mass protests that paralysed key parts of the city for 79 days.

Meanwhile, Billy Fung Jing-en, the former head of the University of Hong Kong’s student union, has been charged with criminal intimidation, disorderly conduct and/or criminal damage over his alleged role in the siege of a university governing council meeting in January presided over by its then newly appointed controversial chairman Arthur Li Kwok-cheung.

Pan-democrats have by and large kept quiet about the latest court rulings. Having banged on about the importance of Hong Kong’s independent judiciary, they can hardly claim persecution when the court hands down judgments unfavourable to some of their own.

Former HKU student union president pleads ‘not guilty’ to charges over council meeting siege

Not so for foreign (busy)bodies like the Hong Kong chapter of Amnesty International. The group has denounced the charges against the Occupy trio as arbitrary and that their prosecution amounted to persecution, a direct threat to the freedom of speech and peaceful assembly.

It’s not clear how Amnesty came to its conclusions. Our courts have not become instruments of the government yet. It hardly helps the cause of political reform in Hong Kong to cast groundless doubts on the integrity of our judiciary.

But Amnesty is hardly the only one that has shown a lack of respect for local laws and the courts.

To defend Billy Fung, his successor at the HKU Student Union has told the university’s administration – on television, no less – that it has neither the duty nor obligation to offer evidence to the police or cooperate with them. This is to protect the future of its students and the reputation of the school, according to Althea Suen Hiu-nam.

Well, Althea, people do have a legal duty to give evidence and provide witness. And telling people not to do it may amount to interfering with witnesses and perverting the course of justice, which any well-informed secondary school child knows are criminal offences. I don’t fret about youthful rebellion. It’s the quality of student leadership I worry about. And they are all running for Legco!