Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor called on pan-democrat lawmakers to study in detail Tuesday’s ruling by the Court of Final Appeal (CFA) in a case related to three student activists, saying the judgment should not be interpreted in simplistic terms as a defeat for the government.
Referring to comments by opposition groups that the court’s decision to quash jail terms for Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Alex Chow Yong-kang over a 2014 pro-democracy protest amounted to finding fault with the government over its handling of the case, Lam insisted that such claims are without basis.
The ruling does not mean that the Department of Justice (DoJ) was wrong in appealing for stronger punishment for the trio after they were initially handed non-custodial sentences, she said.
In a Q&A session at the Legislative Council on Wednesday, Democratic Party lawmaker Ted Hui Chi-fung asked Lam if she would admit that DoJ had made a mistake by seeking a judicial review on the case, given that the top court has now overturned an appellate court’s decision to jail the trio.
In response, Lam said she is not surprised that some people were coming to such conclusion, and advised the critics to go through the judgment and the remarks made by the CFA carefully.
The judgment should not be viewed in simplistic terms, with the focus just on the headline news of the activists getting their jail terms cancelled, according to the chief executive.
There was no wording in the CFA’s ruling that called the DoJ’s application for a judicial review was wrong, Lam pointed out, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
She also emphasized the point that the CFA agreed with the appellate court that deterrent punishments for unlawful assembly cases involved with violence are necessary.
Lam urged opposition lawmakers to study the judgment in detail before criticizing the DoJ over its move.
In 2016, a magistrates’ court found Wong, Law and Chow guilty of “unlawful assembly” after charges were laid against them for storming a barricaded area outside the government headquarters on Sept. 26, 2014, shortly before the Occupy protests officially kicked off.
Wong and Law were ordered to do community service while Chow given a three-week suspended jail sentence.
The DOJ considered the punishment inadequate and submitted an application for a judicial review to the appellate court, which sentenced them to six to eight months in prison in August last year.
This prompted the trio to lodge an appeal for overturning of the appellate court’s decision.
In a unanimous decision on their final appeal, the CFA ruled Tuesday that the trio should not be jailed, overturning the prison sentences given to them.
Although the result appeared that the CFA did not think the DoJ’s move was justified, Lam disagreed with such a view.
She cited the CFA as saying it is inadmissible that defendants seek leniency by exercising their constitutional rights, including freedom of speech.
Commenting on the justice department’s statement after the ruling that it is wrong to say there were political motives behind its application for judicial review, Eric Cheung Tat-ming, principal lecturer at the Faculty of Law of the University of Hong Kong, said the argument does not wash.
It was obvious that the DoJ’s true intention was to put the trio in jail, rather than seeking new guidelines from the appellate court, when it filed for a judicial review, Cheung said.
– Contact us at [email protected]