Hong Kong Occupy activist Raphael Wong loses contempt of court appeal
Hong Kong Court of Appeal rules that by refusing to leave Occupy protest site, Wong had committed contempt, regardless of his intention
By wishing to remain at a court-banned protest site during the Hong Kong Occupy sit-ins in 2014 an activist had committed contempt of court regardless of whether there was proof his true intention was to obstruct the administration of justice, an appeal court ruled on Friday.
The Hong Kong Court of Appeal as a result rejected Raphael Wong Ho-ming’s appeal against his conviction for contempt.
The League of Social Democrats vice-chairman was found guilty by a lower court last year after he and 19 others refused to leave the Occupy protest site in Mong Kok during a court-ordered clearance at the busy Kowloon district on November 26, 2014.
His lawyers argued in an appeal earlier this month that Court of First Instance judge Mr Justice Andrew Chan Hing-wai was wrong to find Wong guilty based merely on a “basic intent” that he wanted to remain in the area.
They argued there should also be proof that Wong’s intention was to interfere with justice during the stay – what they called a “specific intent”.
But on Friday, three appeal judges rejected the lawyers’ suggestions in a judgment that means Wong, already in jail, will have to continue his four months’ jail sentence.
Justice of Appeal Jeremy Poon Shiu-chor – who wrote on behalf of chief judge of the High Court Andrew Cheung Kui-nung and vice-president of the appeal court Johnson Lam Man-hon – said when a person obstructed bailiffs in discharging their duty, they must also know, or be taken to know that, he was already obstructing the administration of justice.
In Wong’s case, Poon said, the media had widely publicised details of the court order before the clearance, while Wong was named as one of the parties during an earlier stage when the order was contested.
Wong was found obstructing the bailiffs as he remained at the scene, but he contested that he was only there to make sure the court officers were carrying out their job properly on the day.
“He knew by committing the breach,” Poon said, referring to Wong’s decision to stay behind, “he had interfered with the due administration of justice.”
The case arose from the Occupy protests more than three years ago when protesters took to the various major thoroughfares in the city to block traffic in a civil disobedience movement advocating greater democracy for Hong Kong.
Taxi and minibus drivers’ groups sought court orders to ban them doing so, claiming that their livelihood was in peril. The Department of Justice later took over the proceeding to press prosecutions.
Wong and 19 others, including Nobel Peace Prize nominee Joshua Wong Chi-fung, were brought to court to face criminal contempt in the present case after they were arrested during the clearance as a result of the court orders.
Speaking outside court and supporting his fellow activist, Joshua Wong said he was not “optimistic” about the prospect of his own appeal. Wong pleaded guilty in the same case, and was sentenced to three months in jail, for which he had launched an appeal.
Disqualified legislator “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung accused the government of taking up what started out as private lawsuits to achieve a political goal.
He said they hoped to appeal, but had to first explore the possibility with lawyers.