Statement: 11 international parliamentarians call for reform of the Public Order Ordinance following Edward Leung re-trial verdict
On 22 March 2019, a group of 11 international parliamentarians from Europe, North America and Asia issued a statement calling for the Hong Kong government to “reform the Public Order Ordinance” following the retrial of Edward Leung Tin-kei. Please find the statement in full below:
Joint Statement in Solidarity with Edward Leung Tin-kei
In the last three years, 27-year-old Edward Leung Tin-kei has been a victim of the Hong Kong government’s systematic campaign of political screening and of their abuse of the judicial system to imprison political opponents. In both cases, the treatment of Mr Leung is an example of a wider concerning trend in the city.
In 2016, Mr Leung generated major support as a by-election candidate, and then looked set to win a seat in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council. However, Mr Leung’s views were deemed unacceptable by the Hong Kong government and their counterparts in Beijing. As a result, he was disqualified from standing for the Legislative Council elections. Mr Leung’s views broke no law, and this decision was a flagrant breach of the fundamental right to political participation. It has since set a precedent, which has led to 10 electoral candidates and six members of the Legislative Council being either disqualified or removed from office on the basis that their political views are unacceptable.
In addition to disqualifying him from the legislature, the government used the Public Order Ordinance, an outdated colonial era law which has been repeatedly criticised by the United Nations Human Rights Committee for violating international human rights standards, to imprison him. In June 2018, Edward Leung was sentenced to six years in jail for ‘rioting’ following his involvement in the Mong Kok protests of February 2016. Mr Leung was a Harvard research fellow, did not have a prior criminal record, and he was arrested before the evening’s major unrest. Yet, the law’s vague and arbitrary definition of ‘rioting’, combined with the desire of the government to silence their opponents, resulted in him being sentenced to prison for six of the most formative years of his life.
Mr Leung may have been guilty of a minor offence that evening, but he clearly did not deserve such a lengthy sentence. Yet, even this was not enough for the government of Hong Kong in their vendetta against this young activist. Immediately after his initial six-year sentence, the Secretary for Justice chose to retry him on one of the charges where there was a hung jury. This week, he was found not guilty of this additional charge, but his sentence was too long originally and should never have been retried. This retrial has been unnecessarily stressful and exhausting for him and his family.
What explains the Hong Kong government’s actions? The imprisonment of Mr Leung must be seen in the context of the wider crackdown on protestors since 2014. More than 100 protestors have been charged under the draconian Public Order Ordinance. These convictions are designed by the government to intimidate protestors, and they are having the desired chilling effect: young people are increasingly demoralised at the lack of justice.
In view of this, we call on the Hong Kong government to stop their excessively punitive use of outdated legislation, and immediately reform the Public Order Ordinance.
Margarete Bause MP
Alliance 90 / The Greens Spokesperson on the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid, Germany
Martin Patzelt MP
Christian Democratic Union Member of the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid, Germany
Garnett Genuis MP
Conservative Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Canada
Maria Chin Abdullah MP
Malaysian MP and Former Chairwoman of Bersih 2.0
U Kyaw Min San MP
Member of Parliament and former legal adviser to the International Commission of Jurists Office, Myanmar
The Hon. Tom S. Villarin
Member of the House of Representatives and the Human Rights Committee, Philippines
Raul A. Daza
Member of the House of Representatives, Philippines
Fiona Bruce MP
Conservative MP for Congleton and Chair of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, United Kingdom
Geraint Davies MP
Labour MP for Swansea West, United Kingdom
Lord Alton of Liverpool
Independent Crossbench Peer, United Kingdom
Dr Charles Tannock MEP
Conservative Member of the European Parliament, United Kingdom