As appeal nears, UN experts say Joshua Wong and fellow HK activists should be spared jail

08-Nov-2017 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

The United Nations’ human rights watchdog has weighed in on the coming appeal by student leader Joshua Wong Chi-fung and two other young pro-democracy activists, putting pressure on Hong Kong’s top court to spare them from jail on grounds of international human rights law.

The statement came hours before the Court of Final Appeal was due on Tuesday to hear the case of Wong, ousted lawmaker Nathan Law Kwun-chung and former student leader Alex Chow Yong-kang.

Questioning the Hong Kong government’s previous decision to challenge a non-custodial sentence, two UN experts said in a statement the case highlighted the “deterioration” of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in Hong Kong.

“We urge the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal to consider the cases of Wong, Law and Chow in accordance with Hong Kong’s obligations under international human rights law,” David Kaye, UN special rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and Michel Forst, UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, said in a joint statement issued in Geneva on Monday.

If their sentences are upheld, this will have the effect of stifling the expression of dissenting opinions

David Kaye, UN special rapporteur

“We fear that if their sentences are upheld, this will have the effect of stifling the expression of dissenting opinions, the right to protest and the overall work of human rights defenders.

“The right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly protects people, especially those sharing dissenting opinions,” they said.

The statement was issued by the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights at the UN.

The top court had granted bail to Wong and Law on October 24 pending their appeal against their respective jail sentences of six months and eight months. Chow did not apply for bail.

The Court of Appeal jailed Wong, 21, Law, 24, and Chow, 27, in August, agreeing with the Department of Justice’s application to overturn a lower court’s decision to impose non-custodial sentences.

The trio had been convicted over their roles at a protest in the lead-up to the Occupy movement of 2014. Wong and Law were originally given community service orders, and Chow a suspended jail sentence, for unlawful assembly.

The independent UN experts raised concerns that Secretary of Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung had “previously intervened in the case, to apply for a change and review of the men’s original lighter sentences”.

“We call on the Hong Kong authorities to respect the independence of judicial powers and the rule of law,” they said.

Yuen’s office has not responded to inquiries from the Post.

Last month, the Department of Justice and Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor responded to a letter from a group of senior foreign lawyers criticising the jailing of the three activists by saying that the writers had “misunderstood” or “lacked understanding” of the case and the city’s judicial system.

Calling the comments “unjustified”, a statement from the justice department said: “The judiciary remains truly independent and has displayed very high quality in its discharge of professional duties.”


Category: Hong Kong

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