Hong Kong Watch welcomes release of Occupy trio but concerns remain about the Public Order Ordinance
Hong Kong Watch welcomes the decision to release Joshua Wong, Alex Chow and Nathan Law from their prison sentences. Their release is a sign that Hong Kong's judges retain a measure of independence, despite rule of law being threatened, and that international pressure has a role to play in ensuring that Basic Law and the Sino-British Joint Declaration are honoured.
However, it is important that we do not forget that over a hundred other protesters are under prosecution, but do not have the same media attention. Activists jailed over the northeast New Territories development protests, including Faning Yim Man Wa, Raphael Wong, Willis Ho and many others faced similar charges as the trio but there has been little attention in the international community.
Furthermore it is concerning that the judgement in the Court of Final Appeal case upholds the stricter interpretation of the Public Order Ordinance which the Court of Appeal used to justify the imprisonment of the three protesters. In 2013, the United Nations Human Rights Committee raised concerns that the Public Order Ordinance 'placed excessive restrictions' on freedom of assembly and expression. They said:
"The Committee is concerned about (a) the application in practice of certain terms contained in the Public Order Ordinance, inter alia, “disorder in public places” or “unlawful assembly”, which may facilitate excessive restriction to the Covenant rights, (b) increasing number of arrests of and prosecutions against demonstrators, and (c) the use of camera and video-recording by police during demonstrations (articles 17 and 21).
Hong Kong, China should ensure that the implementation of the Public Order Ordinance is in conformity with the Covenant. Hong Kong, China should also establish clear guidelines for police and for records of the use of video-recording devices and make such guidelines accessible to the public."
Hong Kong Watch concurs with the UN Human Rights Committee's conclusion. These high profile cases should raise discussions about whether the Public Order Ordinance is in line with human rights law, and the legislation should be reviewed and amended immediately.