Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the Court of Appeal’s rulings sentencing 16 pro-democracy activists to jail in two separate cases last week were made in the exercise of judicial independence and so any allegation that there was political interference involved is “totally unfounded”, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Lam made the remarks following Sunday’s massive protest, in which tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest the prison sentences given to former student leaders Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow on Thursday for unlawful assembly and leading students to storm a barricaded area outside government headquarters in September 2014.
The crowd also wanted to show their support for 13 young activists who were jailed on Tuesday for storming a Legislative Council meeting in protest against the government’s development plans for the northeastern New Territories.
The Department of Justice had filed for judicial reviews of both cases on the grounds that the original penalties given to the young activists were inadequate to serve as a deterrent.
Lam, who will visit Shanghai and Hangzhou from Tuesday, stressed that there was absolutely no political motivation behind the department’s decision to appeal the cases, noting that it was purely based on the Prosecution Code, applicable laws and evidence, adding that doing so is its inescapable duty.
As such, it is totally incorrect to call the jailed activists political prisoners or victims of political persecution, Lam said.
She also pointed out the courts’ acceptance of the justice department’s applications for review means they are justified in doing so, adding that it is unfair to target the judges.
The Department of Justice reiterated that there was no political persecution involved in the cases, nor was there any case of double jeopardy or double sentencing.
Asked if the DOJ’s decision to appeal the trio’s case was made by Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen despite his subordinates’ objection, as foreign media had reported, Lam said she could not corroborate such reports, but she said it was not right to say there were divisions in the department just because there were different opinions.
Unsatisfied with the chief executive’s comments, Civic Party leader Alan Leong Kah-kit said it was clearly a case of political persecution, citing the fact that the government did not apply for judicial review of the cases involving pro-Beijing activists who used violence.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Monday that freedom of speech and how to exercise that right are two different issues, stressing there should be no double standards when it comes to respecting the rule of law.
Meanwhile, Lam said she had tried to persuade students leaders “as a mother” to achieve their ideals through lawful means when she represented the government in a dialogue with them during the 2014 Occupy protests, hk01.com reported.
But Chow’s father said if Lam really cared about the jailed activists’ mothers, she should have expressed it on the day they were sentenced.
In a phone call made to a talk show on RTHK, he said he respects Lam as she has done much for Hong Kong, but stressed that maternal love is something that many mothers have for their children.
He reminded Lam not to project an image of a caring mother just to increase her political capital.
– Contact us at [email protected]