HK youths rightly con­victed for break­ing law

SomeWestern me­dia out­lets ... don’t re­al­ize that the youths’ de­mands were against Hong Kong’s Ba­sic Law; worse they ob­structed demo­cratic devel­op­ment.

China Daily (USA) - - VIEWS -

Hong Kong stu­dent ac­tivists JoshuaWong Chi-fung and Alex Chow Yong-kang have been con­victed for un­law­ful as­sem­bly andNathan Law Kwun-chung for in­cite­ment over the storm­ing of gov­ern­ment head­quar­ters on Sept 26, 2014, the pre­lude to the il­le­gal “Oc­cupy Cen­tral” move­ment that dis­rupted nor­mal life in the city for more than 79 days.

Af­ter the July 21 court judg­ment, some Bri­tish andUS me­dia out­lets passed un­fair and bi­ased re­marks against the con­vic­tions. In­stead of re­mind­ing young peo­ple not to vi­o­late the law, The Wall Street Jour­nal, TheNew York Times, TheWashington Post, The Guardian, The Tele­graph and BBC, along with Amnesty In­ter­na­tional, crit­i­cized the con­vic­tion, us­ing words and phrases such as “vague”, “smacks of po­lit­i­cal pay­back” and “a chill­ing warn­ing to free­dom of ex­pres­sion”.

But a closer look atHong Kong’s laws would show these ac­cu­sa­tions are ig­nor­ing the rule of lawat least. Sec­tion 18(1) of the Pub­lic Or­der Or­di­nance de­fines “un­law­ful as­sem­bly” thus: “When three or more per­sons, as­sem­bled to­gether, con­duct them­selves in a dis­or­derly, in­tim­i­dat­ing, in­sult­ing or provoca­tive man­ner, in­tended or likely to cause any per­son rea­son­ably to fear that the per­sons so as­sem­bled will com­mit a breach of the peace, or will by such con­duct pro­voke other per­sons to com­mit a breach of the peace, they are an un­law­ful as­sem­bly.”

The ac­tions demon­strated by storm­ing the gov­ern­ment head­quar­ters fit the de­scrip­tion above. If a group of pro­test­ers had dis­rupted the ac­tiv­i­ties of, say, the White­House or 10 Down­ing Street they would have faced even more se­ri­ous pun­ish­ments.

Be­cause of the re­fusal to fol­low the laws, and re­spect the power of the com­mis­sioner of po­lice and po­lice force to reg­u­late pub­lic meet­ings, “Oc­cupy Cen­tral” caused huge losses and great suf­fer­ings to the peo­ple ofHong Kong. We sawhowHong Kong’s rep­u­ta­tion was soiled, its so­cial sta­bil­ity jeop­ar­dized and eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties af­fected. Ju­di­cial con­vic­tion there­fore is le­git­i­mate, which un­der no cir­cum­stances should be seen as “po­lit­i­cal pay­back”. In the ab­sence of le­gal con­se­quences, more such il­le­gal move­ments would have been launched at the cost ofHong Kong’s 7 mil­lion peo­ple.

The pros­e­cu­tion and con­vic­tion of law­break­ers have noth­ing to do with free­dom of ex­pres­sion. Jus­tice will be served in ac­cor­dance with the law. And law en­force­ment can never be “a chill­ing warn­ing to free­dom of ex­pres­sion”.

In fact, the un­law­ful “Oc­cupy cen­tral” or “Um­brella Rev­o­lu­tion” sent a chill­ing warn­ing about the rise of an­ar­chy.

SomeWestern me­dia out­lets have wrongly as­sumed that those con­victed did some­thing worth­while for the demo­cratic devel­op­ment ofHong Kong. They don’t re­al­ize that the youths’ de­mands were against Hong Kong’s Ba­sic Law; worse they ob­structed demo­cratic devel­op­ment.

Ar­ti­cle 45 of the Ba­sic Law­pro­vides the blue­print for even­tu­ally re­al­iz­ing univer­sal suf­frage in the Hong Kong Spe­cial Ad­min­is­tra­tion Re­gion. TheNa­tional Peo­ple’s Congress Stand­ing Com­mit­tee, with its in­ter­pre­ta­tions and ex­pla­na­tions of the Ba­sic Law, has laid out the frame­work for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of univer­sal suf­frage. And the SAR gov­ern­ment has mapped out a plan to elect the next chief ex­ec­u­tive through univer­sal suf­frage. If all of these were re­spected and fol­lowed strictly, we would have been on track to elect the next chief ex­ec­u­tive through univer­sal suf­frage in 2017. Now that goal has been post­poned.

The laws that have helped Hong Kong achieve the rule of law­in­clude the la­wof pub­lic or­der, which au­tho­rizes the po­lice to pre­vent, stop or dis­perse, with force as and when nec­es­sary, any un­law­ful pub­lic meet­ing, pro­ces­sion and gath­er­ing. Any­one who dis­obeys these laws there­fore de­serves pun­ish­ment, as they do in theUnited States and theUnited King­dom. The au­thor is a vet­eran com­men­ta­tor and pro­fes­sor at the Re­search Cen­ter ofHong Kong andMa­cao Ba­sic Law, Shen­zhen Univer­sity.

LI MIN / CHINA DAILY

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