HK’s No 2 official and justice secretary say unlawful protest charges will not be dropped against 15 opposition camp activists amid international criticism

28-Apr-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Senior Hong Kong officials have blasted suggestions the arrests of 15 pro-democracy figures for their roles in unlawful protests were politically motivated as they insisted the charges would not be dropped.

Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung and Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah used two blog posts on Sunday to reject international and domestic criticism of the rounding up earlier this month of barrister Martin Lee Chu-ming and media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, as well as 13 other veterans and supporters of the opposition camp.

It is plainly wrong to label our prosecutions as ‘politicised’. On the contrary, no one, be they tycoons or politicians, will be above the law

Teresa Cheng

Cheng said city prosecutors acted independently and should not be influenced by remarks from overseas politicians that were not based on evidence and the law, as she urged people to refrain from commenting on the cases “as it may bring about the undesirable effect of a trial by the public”.

“Statements made requesting the [Department of Justice] to drop all the charges or uttered with a view to affecting the DOJ’s role in controlling criminal prosecutions are futile,” she wrote.

“It is plainly wrong to label our prosecutions as ‘politicised’. On the contrary, no one, be they tycoons or politicians, will be above the law or be treated differently simply because they have a certain status or are pursuing certain beliefs or goals.”

Cheng added that society needed to stand united in upholding its independent criminal justice system “especially when it is under attack by any unfair and unfounded allegation made with a view to discrediting or undermining it”.

In his blog post, Cheung said local and foreign individuals had made “biased” and “unreasonable” accusations against Hong Kong law enforcement.

“Anyone, including foreign governments and lawmakers, cannot interfere with Hong Kong’s internal affairs or try to interfere with the Department of Justice’s independent decision to prosecute,” the city’s No 2 official wrote.

Fifteen pro-democracy activists and their supporters were on April 18 arrested on suspicion of organising and participating in unauthorised marches on August 18, October 1 or October 20.

The events related to the anti-government unrest sparked in June last year by the now-withdrawn extradition bill.

On April 18, police said the 15 would be charged shortly or had already been so and were due to appear before magistrates at Eastern Court on May 18.

The swoop prompted responses from the United Nations, the International Bar Association, as well as the United States, British and Australian governments and politicians.

Four days after the arrests, more than 30 members of the European Parliament wrote an open letter to Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, calling for “an immediate review of the events that led to the arrests on April 18 and ensure that the charges are dropped”.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the arrests and described them as part of Beijing’s efforts “to erode autonomy” in Hong Kong.

In a statement on Monday, the International Bar Association called for charges against the 15 to be dropped.

“We call on the authorities to discontinue such politicised and targeted prosecutions immediately,” the association said.

The United Nation’s human rights office also said on Friday that it was closely monitoring the situation. “We remind the government of its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” it said. “We hope it will continue to engage with all stakeholders to find solutions for the future benefit of all.”

Marise Payne, Australia’s foreign affairs minister, said the timing of the move during the Covid-19 pandemic was an aggravating factor.

“Actions that undermine stability are never acceptable, but to do so during a crisis of this magnitude erodes goodwill and trust,” Payne said.

Among the arrested were former lawmakers Yeung Sum, Lee Cheuk-yan, Albert Ho Chun-yan, “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, Au Nok-hin, Sin Chung-kai, Cyd Ho Sau-lan and Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee.

Others held include Civil Human Rights Front’s Figo Chan Ho-wun, incumbent lawmaker Leung Yiu-chung, League of Social Democrats’ Raphael Wong Ho-ming and Avery Ng Man-yuen and Democratic Party member Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong.


Category: Hong Kong

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