Occupy Central

High Court allows contempt of court actions against 20 Occupy activists over Mong Kok clearance to continue

Activists including student leaders Joshua Wong and Lester Shum allegedly obstructed the work of bailiffs clearing occupied roads during protest

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 March, 2016, 7:38pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 March, 2016, 8:39pm

The High Court has allowed contempt of court actions brought against 20 Occupy activists, including student leaders Joshua Wong Chi-fung and Lester Shum, to continue.

The Department of Justice will fix a date for a substantive hearing on the 20 cases together, estimated to last a total of 45 days, according to a judgment handed down on Tuesday.

The activists allegedly obstructed the work of bailiffs clearing occupied roads in Mong Kok on November 26, 2014, resulting in the issue of a batch of summonses against them for contempt in April last year.

READ MORE: Hong Kong High Court ‘may use discretion’ to allow contempt of court actions against 20 Occupy pro-democracy activists

But the department then did not, as stipulated by requirements, request a trial date within 14 days of the orders being served, giving grounds for a legal challenge by the activists.

Wong and 19 others argued that the summonses had lapsed and should be discharged.

But Mr Justice Anderson Chow Ka-ming on Tuesday said the court had the power to allow a fresh application by prosecutors in new proceedings.

In his written judgment handed down on Tuesday, Chow said a “mere failure” by prosecutors to comply with the time requirement should not lead to them forever being barred from seeking an order of committal against the activists.

“In my view, the overall interest of justice would demand that the court should continue to have jurisdiction to entertain fresh leave applications so that there could be a proper adjudication on the merits of the cases without unnecessary costs or delay,” the judge said.

Chow said the purpose of the procedural requirements appeared to be to “avoid persons being harassed by applications for committal which are either obviously unfounded or oppressive”.

Prosecutors had not gained any tactical advantage by seeking fresh permission to continue with the actions, the judge added.

The activists were ordered to pay legal costs for the secretary for justice.