Ruling to jail Nathan Law, Joshua Wong and Alex Chow was lawful and independent
The recent jailing of student leaders Nathan Law Kwun-chung, Joshua Wong Chi-fung and Alex Chow Yong-kang has sparked unfounded criticism from local and international media over the impartiality of Hong Kong’s judiciary.
Some critics accused the government of “political persecution” and judges of going along with this. But, in a rare joint statement, the Hong Kong Bar Association and Law Society reasserted the credibility of the Court of Appeal’s decision on August 17 to send the three activists to jail for unlawful assembly in 2014. Accusations of biased judges and political persecution have caused some people to question one of Hong Kong’s cherished values – the rule of law. But such accusations are blatant cherry-picking of the facts by Hong Kong’s opposition.
The rule of law, along with a professional judiciary, are embraced by local and international communities as the foundation of Hong Kong’s economic success. What the critics overlook is the right for an individual to appeal against a verdict within the period allowed under Hong Kong law. It is unfair to undermine the judiciary purely because a decision made by the Court of Appeal conflicts with your political stance.
As much as we value respect for rights and freedoms, we also value social order. It is understandable to feel strongly about a subject and to freely express what you believe; however, in the process of voicing your belief, it is totally unacceptable to show disrespect for the law. It insults the concept of “non-violence” when those who claim to practise it use force.
The trio must have known that clashes between protesters and security guards would be inevitable when a huge crowd forced its way into a secure area. These offenders could not say the law tried to oppress their freedom of speech and assembly because, in the first place, the law never allowed them to use illegal measures to exercise their freedoms. The sentence was certainly lawful and independently decided.
Hong Kong citizens are entitled to have different opinions. But this right comes with a duty to respect the rule of law and not undermine it with unfounded allegations.
If such allegations lead to less confidence from international investors and citizens in our judiciary, society will pay a heavy price in terms of economic development.
Groundless attempts to disregard Hong Kong’s judicial independence strike at the heart of our core values.
Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung, legislative councillor