Statement by Department of Justice
The Department of Justice (DoJ) today (August 17) issues the following statement in respect of the Court of Appeal case concerning Joshua Wong, Alex Chow and Nathan Law (CAAR 4/2016):
The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) all along respects the freedom of speech, and the right to demonstration, assembly, etc. However, one must also respect the law when exercising such rights, and should not over-step the boundary allowed under the law.
The above-named three defendants in this case were convicted not because they exercised their civil liberties, but because their conduct during the protest contravened the law. The HKSAR courts have all along handled cases (including public order event cases) independently, justly and professionally. The court found the three defendants guilty on the basis of evidence presented during a fair trial as well as the applicable law. Although the defendants at one stage sought to appeal against their convictions, they have since withdrawn their appeals against conviction.
Under the HKSAR's legal system, both the prosecution and the convicted defendant can seek an appeal of sentence to a higher court. An appeal of this nature by DoJ proceeds, with leave of the Court of Appeal, by way of an application for review of sentence in accordance with sections 81A and 81B of the Criminal Procedure Ordinance, and will be considered by the Court of Appeal. However, under section 81C of the said Ordinance, if the defendants have already lodged an appeal against conviction, the Court of Appeal shall not review the sentence unless the appeal against conviction has been withdrawn or disposed of.
In the present case, DoJ was granted leave by the Court of Appeal on October 12, 2016 to review the defendants' sentence. However, since the defendants had lodged appeals against their convictions in August 2016, DoJ's application for review could not be heard until after the defendants’ appeals against conviction have been dealt with. The defendants' appeals against conviction were scheduled for May 22, 2017. The court directed the defendants to file written submissions on or before April 20, 2017. The defendants eventually did not file any written submissions and withdrew their appeals the day before the said deadline (i.e. April 19, 2017).
After the defendants withdrew their appeals against conviction, DoJ applied to fix a date for the hearing of its review of sentence. The review was heard by the Court of Appeal on August 9, 2017, and today the Court of Appeal delivered the judgment (Judgment). The Court of Appeal's Judgment clarifies the relevant legal principles and sentencing standards, and can provide guidance to future cases of similar nature.
DoJ notices that certain people in the community allege that the prosecution in this case was politically motived, or that this case is a case of political persecution. Such kind of allegations are utterly groundless, and choose to ignore the existence of objective evidence. In all criminal cases (including this one), DoJ deals with them in accordance with the Prosecution Code, the applicable law and relevant evidence. Further, the state of judicial independence in the HKSAR cannot be doubted. It can be seen from the reasoning contained in the Judgment that the Court of Appeal dealt with this case solely from the legal perspective, and that there cannot be any suggestion of political motivation whatsoever. In this regard, DoJ draws the public's attention to paragraph 171 of the Judgment (which is in Chinese (Note) and which reads as follows):
Note: The entire Judgment of the Court of Appeal is in Chinese. No official English translation is available at the time when this press release is issued.
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