Hong Kong expert urges national security department to investigate recent threats to local judges
Published: Nov 18, 2021 02:23 AM
HK High Court File Photo: VCG

File Photo: VCG

The Department of Justice in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) have vowed to carry out a thorough investigation and punishment of the perpetrators in accordance with the law. 

The statement came after recent incidents of envelopes containing unknown powder that were sent to two courts. Chan Chak-ming, President of the Law Society of Hong Kong, also condemned all acts of intimidation against the judiciary.

Hong Kong media reported on Wednesday that the West Kowloon Magistrates' Court and the Shatin Magistrates' Court received envelopes containing unknown powder on Tuesday.

Intimidation against judges and judicial officers is unacceptable to the HKSAR as a society which observes the rule of law. In any event that unlawful means are used aiming to exert influence over court proceedings, the HKSAR Government will take the case seriously and spare no effort in bringing the culprit to justice in order to safeguard the due administration of the judicial process and public peace, the Hong Kong Department of Justice said in a statement on Tuesday. 

"Intimidation of judicial officers is not only a serious criminal offence, but also a threat to the rule of law and judicial independence, which are the cornerstones of our society. Such attempts must immediately cease," Chan said in a statement by the Law Society of Hong Kong shared with the Global Times on Wednesday. 

A letter sent to the West Kowloon Magistrates' Court on Tuesday was addressed to Judge Kathie Cheung Kit-yee. The letter contained an unknown white powder and a profanity written on a piece of paper. The police evacuated 40 employees in the court building and identified the powder as safe after examination.

Another letter was sent to the Shatin Magistrates' Court about 1.5 hour after that to the West Kowloon court. 

Five days earlier, on November 11, Cheung received a letter containing sodium hydroxide powder.

The Hong Kong police launched an investigation into the three threatening letters sent to courts in five days.

Even though no clues about the perpetrators have been reported, Hong Kong media revealed that the judges the letters were addressed to recently sentenced violent protesters engaged in riots in the city in 2019.  

For example, in September, Cheung sentenced five students to between 57 and 59 months of prison for clashing with the police in November 2019 in the Chinese University of Hong Kong. 

A few rioters still target judges and magistrates, posing a huge threat to the safety of personnel in Hong Kong justice institutions.

Their goal is to interfere in the fairness of justice by pressuring judges, said Willy Fu, law professor and Vice-Chairman of Hong Kong Legal Exchange Foundation, while strongly condemning such act. 

Fu urged law enforcement departments to immediately launch a thorough investigation into the incidents and bring all culprits to justice to ensure the judges can hear cases fairly according to law. 

The national security department should also be engaged as these cases are targeted at judges and magistrates dealing with national security cases, Fu noted.     

In exercising judicial power, judges are required to handle cases strictly in accordance with the applicable law and evidence. Article 85 of the Basic Law guarantees that the courts of the HKSAR shall exercise judicial power independently, free from any interference, read the statement.  

The department said it strongly deplores recent cases of criminal intimidation against judges. Offenders will be brought to justice. Under section 24 of the Crimes Ordinance, anyone who threatens any other person with injury shall be guilty and liable on conviction upon indictment to imprisonment for five years.

"Article 85 of the Basic Law provides that the courts of Hong Kong shall exercise judicial power independently, free from any interference," Chan said in the statement. 

The Law Society of Hong Kong urges all parties to respect the rule of law and the constitutional role of judges in upholding the rule of law. Any person dissatisfied with the court's judgment should pursue an appeal in accordance with legal procedures, read the statement.