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Hong Kong courts

Hong Kong Occupy activist Raphael Wong loses final bid to overturn contempt of court conviction

  • Court of Final Appeal says Wong knew he was obstructing the administration of justice when he flouted court order to clear site
  • Judge calls claim that activist did not wish to interfere with justice ‘great unreality’
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 December, 2018, 4:01pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 December, 2018, 8:43pm

Hong Kong’s top court on Tuesday rejected an Occupy activist’s bid to overturn a contempt of court conviction, saying he knew full well the consequences of ignoring an order to leave a protest site during the 2014 civil disobedience campaign.

Raphael Wong Ho-ming, 30, was found guilty last year after a High Court trial for refusing to leave a protest site in Mong Kok during a court-ordered clearance on November 26, 2014. He was charged along with 19 others, including student leader Joshua Wong Chi-fung.

On Tuesday, lawyers for Raphael Wong, vice-president of the League of Social Democrats, urged the top court to allow him to lodge his final appeal, after the Court of Appeal in March refused to grant him permission.

Martin Lee Chu-ming SC argued that although Wong might have remained on Nathan Road four years ago – an act banned by a court order – he did not wish to interfere with justice, and therefore should not be found guilty of contempt of court.

But Court of Final Appeal permanent judge Mr Justice Roberto Ribeiro hit back and said the consequence of flouting the court order had been widely reported in the media, leaving Wong no excuse.

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“There is no question your client knew he was obstructing the administration of justice … in this specific context,” he said, describing Lee’s assertion as “great unreality”.

Lee also complained that his client was not given an official final warning before he was arrested. But Ribeiro called that a “desperate” claim, saying the protesters received numerous warnings.

“The application for leave to appeal is dismissed,” Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li said, after a two-hour hearing.

Outside court, Wong was asked whether the ruling would affect future protests when there was a court injunction order in place. “It is, of course, a matter of significant concern,” he said.

The case arose from the Occupy campaign four years ago when protesters took to various major thoroughfares in the city to block traffic in a civil disobedience movement advocating greater democracy for Hong Kong.

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Taxi and minibus drivers’ groups sought court orders to ban them from doing so, claiming their livelihood was in peril. The Department of Justice later pressed for prosecutions.

Wong and the 19 others were brought to court to face criminal contempt charges.

He was sentenced to four months in jail following a three-month trial, while Joshua Wong, who pleaded guilty, was jailed for three months. Others were given fines and suspended sentences.

Speaking after Tuesday’s hearing, Raphael Wong also said the government’s action amounted to an abuse of process. He said then chief executive Leung Chun-ying had left matters to be resolved in court because he failed to respond to political demands from the public.

“That is the actual contempt of court,” he said.