Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng
Since June, protests in Hong Kong have been non-stop and some of which sadly resulted in violence. Police have subsequently arrested a number of people. In view of the number of arrests, the community may wish to have a better understanding of the handling of the people apprehended. I would like to take this opportunity to explain the role of the Department of Justice (DoJ).
There are different comments and views regarding the time required for making prosecutorial decisions. The DoJ must make an objective and professional assessment of the available evidence and applicable law, and act in accordance with the Prosecution Code, irrespective of any political beliefs or background of the people involved. We have all along been discharging prosecutorial duties fairly and without prejudice or favour.
A prosecution would only be commenced if there is a reasonable prospect of conviction. If the defendant pleads guilty to the charge, the court would convict the defendant upon his own plea and sentence him in due course. The judicial process in such cases would require relatively a shorter period of time. There are other situations that the court, before and during the trial, may have to decide whether or not to grant bail based on the relevant evidence, the circumstances of the case, the background, behaviour, demeanour and conduct of the defendant, the nature and seriousness of the offence, history of previous admissions to bail, etc. The defendant, having been released on bail, would have to appear in court for trial. The trial might involve testimony and examination of witnesses, hence the judicial process would take longer.
It has come to my attention that there were some unfair comments on the Judiciary and refusal to comply with injunction orders granted by the court. This would severely undermine our rule of law. Our courts administer justice in full accordance with the law and admissible evidence. Judgments set out the reasons by which the decisions were reached. Some may not like the outcome but it does not mean that the independence of the Judiciary is in anyway compromised. As the Secretary for Justice, I am obliged to ensure that the independence of our Judiciary, as enshrined in the Basic Law, is respected and not arbitrarily attacked or criticised. The community should not make any arbitrary or unfair criticisms which seek to undermine the integrity or impartiality of the Judiciary.
Any law-breaking behaviour, arbitrary and unfair criticisms against prosecutorial decisions made or attack on our Judiciary would undermine our rule of law. Law should not only be practised by judges, legal professionals or the Government but should be observed and respected by the community as a whole. I urge that every one of us should respect the rule of law and safeguard this core value cherished by our society.
Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng wrote this article and posted it on her blog on September 22.