Barristers said recent harsh comments about court rulings regarding people arrested after protesters clashed with police on the night of Feb. 8 in Mong Kok were deeply regrettable, Apple Daily reported Friday.
The Hong Kong Bar Association said in a statement Thursday that the comments “overstep the boundary of the public’s freedom of commentary” and were “highly inappropriate”.
The strongly worded response from the barristers came after some commentators slammed a magistrate for granting bail to Hong Kong Indigenous convener Ray Wong Toi-yeung on Tuesday after he was arrested Sunday on a charge of rioting.
The Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies said the violence in Mong Kok was the after-effect of the judiciary conniving at violence and urged the courts not to condone those who undermine safety and public order.
Tony Kwok Man-wai, a former senior official at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), said in an article published in some newspapers Wednesday that he questioned “problematic” rulings by some magistrates and called on citizens to expose the personal background and family connections of magistrates who he said treated some defendants in the Mong Kok clashes leniently.
Kwok issued an open apology Wednesday for his article.
The bar association said public discussion of court decisions is meaningful only when it is well informed and fully takes into account the circumstances of the case and the reasons of the sentencing judge.
While freedom of speech needs to be respected, the bedrock of the rule of law is public trust in the judicial system and respect for judicial independence, and recent comments undermine both, it said.
The statement said the association very much hopes to see those who broke the law brought to justice, but it sees no basis to suggest that recent criticism of court decisions is justified.
“We are fully confident that all judges in Hong Kong are capable of and will continue to abide by their judicial oath to uphold the Basic Law,” the statement said.
Former ICAC chief investigator Stephen Char Shik-ngor, who is a barrister, said Kwok’s comments went over the line and the accusation he made is enough to constitute contempt of court.
On Thursday, about 30 members from pro-government groups, including Voice of Loving Hong Kong, protested at the High Court.
They chanted slogans saying judges are too lenient with and condone the “rioters”.
Some demonstrators later went to the ICAC to request that it investigate the judges involved in hearing cases concerning the Mong Kong clashes.
Former ICAC deputy chief apologizes for rant against judges (Feb. 25)
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