The Hong Kong Watch view: The conviction of Baggio and Yau shows it is time for the reform of the Public Order Ordinance


Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-Ching and their three assistants have been found guilty today of illegal assembly inside the Legislative Council, despite the fact that Baggio and Yau were legally elected lawmakers. They attempted to barge into a meeting after they were barred from entering to re-take their oaths as lawmakers, believing that they were entitled to do this.

They were already set to be disqualified and the disciplinary matter could have been dealt with internally. However the Secretary of Justice chose to take the case to criminal court, charging them with 'illegal assembly' under the public order ordinance. 

The United Nations have repeatedly criticised the public order ordinance for its vague definitions, highlighting  that 'the Public Order Ordinance could be applied to restrict unduly enjoyment of the rights guaranteed in article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights'.

The fact that legally elected lawmakers and their staff could spend up to three years in jail for 'illegal assembly' in the Legislative Council shows that this law is in urgently in need of reform. More than 100 pro-democracy figures have faced prosecution on the basis of this law since the Occupy protests. It is one of the primary tools used to silence the democracy movement and it must be reformed to bring it in line with international human rights standards. 

Another contributing factor is the fact that the decision  to  prosecute  criminal  offences  is  the  responsibility  of  the  Secretary  for  Justice,  an  appointed  official.  This has led to unnecessarily political prosecutions in recent years. The government of Hong Kong  should  remove  the  responsibilities  of  the  Secretary  of  Justice  to  decide  criminal  prosecutions and appoint an independent chief prosecutor.