21 July 2019
A protester holds a placard denouncing the judge who ordered the jailing of seven police officers in the Ken Tsang assault case. Photo: HKEJ
A protester holds a placard denouncing the judge who ordered the jailing of seven police officers in the Ken Tsang assault case. Photo: HKEJ

Bar Association slams attacks on judge who jailed policemen

The Hong Kong Bar Association (HKBA) has condemned personal attacks against the judge who ordered the jailing of seven policemen in the Ken Tsang assault case, reminding the public that insulting or threatening words will not be conducive to a rational debate.

In a statement Monday, HKBA noted that the Ken Tsang case has drawn high public attention as the policemen were sentenced to two years in prison without probation. 

People may have different opinions about the verdict and may disagree with the court, but the views must be expressed in a manner that will facilitate rational discussions, it said, warning against personal attacks on the British-born judge who gave the ruling. 

Last Friday, Judge David Dufton announced 2-year jail terms for the seven policemen who were accused of beating up pro-democracy activist Ken Tsang during the 2014 Occupy protests.

The sentencing, which came after the police officers were found guilty of “assault occasioning actual bodily harm”, has evoked mixed reactions in society, with some people deeming the jail terms too harsh.

Amid the debate, Dufton has come in for personal criticism, a development that has caused concern within the legal community. 

Echoing the concerns, the HKBA said in its statement that it condemns any form of personal attacks on Dufton, including verbal abuse and intimidation, pointing out that such acts would constitute contempt of court.

While the association agrees that everyone is entitled to comment on the case, given people’s right to free speech, it stressed that personal attacks aimed at the judge not only disrespect the court but will also fail to help with rational discussions.

A spokesman for the Department of Justice, meanwhile, said the department is deeply concerned about disparaging messages appearing on social media and that it will look into the matter, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

On Sunday, at a rally organized by some groups to show support for and call for pardon of the jailed policemen, one protester was seen dressed up as a judge and pretending to be a dog while some other protesters pretended to hit him.

Placards could be seen bearing the words “dog judge”, an apparent attack on Dufton.

In other news related to the case, several police groups are set to jointly hold a special convention at the Mong Kok Police Sports and Recreation Club on Wednesday.

Thousands of policemen are expected to attend the gathering as they seek to discuss ways to provide support for the seven police officers, including raising funds from members. 

Lee Jim-on, who chairs the Hong Kong Police Inspectors’ Association, claimed the meeting is only an internal event and that they are not planning any demonstration.

Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung will not show up at the event, he said.

Regarding calls for legislation that would make insulting police a criminal offence, Lee said it is not included in the meeting agenda on Wednesday.

However, he said that introduction of such new law might be good, adding that he welcomes comments from the members.

Speaking at an Islands District Council meeting, Lo said he welcomes any new law that would help the police in their work.

But he admitted that it won’t be easy to introduce such legislation to ban insulting behavior against police.

In other news, Ken Tsang told reporters that he is disappointed at Lo as the police chief has yet to issue any apology to him.

Cheng Yiu-tong, who is honorary president of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions and a Hong Kong delegate to the National People’s Congress, said the Ken Tsang ruling might be a big blow to police morale.

The chief executive should grant the seven police officers amnesty if they fail to win their appeal, Cheng said.

[Chinese version 中文版]

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