CHINA / SOCIETY
3 HK judges ruling first NSL case threatened; city’s legal practitioners express strong condemnation
Published: Jul 28, 2021 08:30 PM
A prison van carrying Leon Tong Ying-kit leaves a court in Hong Kong on Tuesday after Tong, 24, was found guilty of inciting secessionism and terrorism under the national security law for Hong Kong. Photo: cnsphoto

A prison van carrying Leon Tong Ying-kit leaves a court in Hong Kong on Tuesday after Tong, 24, was found guilty of inciting secessionism and terrorism under the national security law for Hong Kong. Photo: cnsphoto


 
The three judges who ruled the first case under the national security law (NSL) for Hong Kong were threatened after announcing the verdict on Tuesday. The police are currently investigating the matter. The city’s legal practitioners have also expressed strong condemnation to the incident.

According to the Hong Kong Police Force, after the verdict ruling was handed down at 3 pm Tuesday, a judiciary employee received a phone call at around 5 pm from a man who called one of the three judges, Esther Toh Lye-ping, a dog judge, and said he would launch a bomb attack on her. 

The man also undermined the other two judges, saying he would also blast them or slash them with knives. 

The case is temporarily classified as criminal intimidation and referred to the Organized Crime and Triad Investigation Division for follow-up. No one has been arrested yet, police said. 

On Tuesday, Hong Kong’s first national security law verdict found Leon Tong Ying-kit guilty of inciting secession and terrorism. 

No jury was present at the trial, as Hong Kong's justice secretary argued that a jury trial in this case would "put jurors' safety at risk." The case is instead being heard by a panel of three judges assigned by the HKSAR's Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

“Judges had to handle cases in accordance with the law and evidence without any intervention,” said the Department of Justice in a late-night statement over the incident. 

It added that the government would not tolerate acts that harm the rule of law by threatening judges.

The Small and Medium Law Firms Association of Hong Kong also condemned the act, noting that such serious illegal acts challenge the bottom line of national security and the rule of law, and undermine the fundamental interests of the Hong Kong people.

“We firmly support the related departments to bring the culprits to justice as soon as possible,” it said in a statement published on Wednesday. “We absolutely cannot condone such lawless acts that seriously challenge national security and the rule of law.” 

In recent years, intimidation, verbal abuse and harassment of judges has become been increasing, Lawrence Ma, barrister and chairman at Hong Kong Legal Exchange at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times on Wednesday. He called on the law enforcement agencies to strengthen the protection of the judges’ safety so that they can operate efficiently.

“Dispensing justice according to law is a duty of the judges,” Ma said. “But we do not want judges to be emotionally traumatized after discharging their duty.”

Ma suggested that authorities should assign personal bodyguards for judges involved in sensitive cases. 

Ma pointed out that although intimidating judges may not constitute a violation of the national security law, it is a violation of Article 24 of the Criminal Offences Ordinance. Once convicted in public prosecution, the sentence could reach five years’ imprisonment. 

“However, in the past, rare cases of intimidating judges were detected, so it may not be deterrent to those who intend to do the same,” said Ma. 

In December 2020, Victor So Wai Tak, who was appointed as one of the six magistrates to preside over national security charges, also received a threatening phone call. In May, after the ruling for the unauthorized assembly case on October 1, 2019, at least three suspicious phone calls were received by the office of Judge Grace Wu, which included insulting and intimidating remarks. None of these cases ended in arrests. 


blog comments powered by Disqus