Violence in Hong Kong Legislative Council chamber on rise, top prosecutor reports
Senior justice department official describes division’s work last year as ‘most challenging’
Hong Kong’s outgoing director of public prosecutions has described his division’s work last year as “most challenging,” citing “a disturbing surge” in public order cases involving violence both “inside and outside” the city’s legislature.
In presenting the annual report, Keith Yeung Ka-hung pledged his staff would remain impartial, independent, and “apolitical” in handling cases.
It was Yeung’s fourth and last report to Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung. Yeung is stepping down on Friday when his term expires.
In the report’s introduction, Yeung wrote that the prosecutions division had gone through “a most challenging” year in 2016.
“A good number of [cases], because of their nature ... or of the parties involved ... or both, firmly gripped the public’s attention and imagination. Open scrutiny was at an all-time high. At certain stages, some cases got covered sentence by sentence, question by question.
“Personal feelings, the possible political effects of our decisions on any entities including the government, possible media or public reaction to the decision, to name a few, are all such irrelevant considerations,” he continued, adding that pressure had “no influence on us” except to serve as extra motivation “to strive even harder”.
A section about the work of the division’s public order and cybercrime section stated: “2016 also saw a disturbing surge in cases involving physical violence that took place both inside and outside the Legislative Council chamber.”
It cited the cases of then legislator Raymond Wong Yuk-man throwing a glass of water at the chief executive inside the chamber, and the case of two activists setting fire to a rubbish bin outside Legco during a protest.
Wong was sentenced to two weeks in jail. In the rubbish bin case, one activist was sentenced to a detention centre and the other to two years’ imprisonment.
The report claimed prosecutors had “borne in mind the fundamental right to freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly” in the face of a “drastically changing socio-political environment”.
“It is only in clear cases where the impugned acts have exceeded the boundaries of such rights that criminal charges are recommended when evidence supports a reasonable prospect of conviction,” it added.