Edward Leung was found guilty, and Patten’s comments make a mockery of Hong Kong’s judiciary
In your reports published on June 11, colonial Hong Kong's last governor expressed grave concern about the conviction of Edward Leung Tin-kei for rioting, under the Public Order Ordinance (“Edward Leung riot sentence: too harsh, or necessary as deterrent?”).
Claiming that he attempted to revamp the ordinance in the 1990s, Chris Patten criticised it as “vague” and “open to abuse”. He further contended that the law does not “conform with the United Nations’ human rights standards”, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
I take issue with Mr Patten on the point of vagueness. The judge who sentenced Leung, the former convenor of pro-independence group Hong Kong Indigenous, to six years in prison dutifully applied the Public Order Ordinance, which clearly stipulates that any person who takes part in a riot shall be liable when convicted to imprisonment of 10 years. The ordinance also lists conditions under which an assembly is considered illegal. On matters of facts and law, Mr Leung was found guilty of contravening the law.
Mr Patten also claimed that the ordinance was being used “politically to place extreme sentences on pan-democrats and other activists”.
If he argues that the verdict handed down on Leung was politically motivated because the sentencing was severe, he simply does not trust our judges who are appointed on their “judicial and professional qualities”, if I may quote what our Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li said at a recent ceremony to admit newly appointed senior counsels. Mr Patten is making a mockery of our judiciary.
Watch: How localist group Hong Kong Indigenous evolved
The objective of the Public Order Ordinance or any similar legislation in other cities is to maintain order and peace in society. Unduly lenient sentences given to offenders will only send a wrong message to society that breaking the law carries no consequence.
Tougher sentences, as in Leung's case, serve as a deterrent. Leung himself is said to have admitted responsibility for his acts during the riot. No matter what, I wish that Leung and the other young men who rioted will learn a lesson and truly reflect on their actions. And, when they get out of prison, I am confident that society will still accept them as responsible citizens of Hong Kong.
Dr Eugene K.K. Chan, Central