Court finally releases English version of judgment that jailed Hong Kong activists Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow
The ruling had hitherto only been available in Chinese, and not in the city’s other official language
A Hong Kong court has released the English version of the judgment that sent three prominent democracy activists to prison, a full two weeks after judges handed down the controversial sentences.
The new document lays out the judges’ reasoning as they gave Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Alex Chow Yong-kang between six and eight months in jail, and records one of the judges’ warning that the trio’s actions were symptoms of “an unhealthy wind blowing” in the city.
The ruling had until this week only been available in Chinese, and not in the bilingual city’s other official language, English.
On August 17, the Court of Appeal jailed Wong, Law and Chow for their roles in a storming of government headquarters in Admiralty on September 26, 2014. The trio were key leaders of the 2014 Occupy protests, which shifted into full gear two days after the storming.
The sentences sparked worries and debate over the city’s judicial independence, because the higher court overturned a lower court’s more lenient sentences after government lawyers pushed for harsher punishments. The new translation may help with that debate; lawyers in the city have long called on the public to focus on the reasoning in judgments before criticising judges.
Not all court judgments are readily available in both of the city’s official languages.
University of Hong Kong principal law lecturer Eric Cheung Tat-ming said courts needed to make important judgments available in both Chinese and English, but that there was no standard practice on translation.
Normally, cases involving important legal principles would be translated, barrister Albert Luk Wai-hung said, though there was no guarantee that would happen quickly, because the scale of the task depends on the judgment’s length and complexity.
Criminal defence lawyer Jonathan Midgley said that does not affect litigants in practice.
“In a Chinese trial, the only people who need the judgment urgently will be the Chinese-speaking defendant and Chinese-speaking legal team who must consider an appeal,” he said.
Encapsulating the strong words of Court of Final Appeal vice-president Wally Yeung Chun-kuen, one of the presiding judges, the judiciary’s newly available English version of the Occupy trio’s judgment reads: “In recent years, an unhealthy wind has been blowing in Hong Kong.”
Yeung said: “Some people, on the pretext of pursuing their ideals or freely exercising their rights conferred by law, have acted wantonly in an unlawful manner.
“Not only do they refuse to admit their law-breaking activities are wrong, but they even go as far as regarding such activities as a source of honour and pride.”