Outgoing chief executive Leung Chun-ying said today that the Secretary for Justice’s decision to charge nine key players in the 2014 Occupy protest was “free from any interference”.
As the Occupy leaders were arrested, Leung was asked whether political considerations were in play. He said Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung handled prosecution work in accordance with the Basic Law’s Article 63.
“Political factors were not behind the prosecution,” said Leung before today’s weekly Executive Council meeting. “The Secretary for Justice handles every case without any consideration of timing or people because he’s based on the Article 63 to ‘control criminal prosecutions without any interference’.”
The Occupy movement’s three principal organisers, Benny Tai Yiu-ting, the Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, and Dr Chan Kin-man, are facing charges for things they did between March 27, 2013, when they published their Occupy manifesto in local newspapers, and December 2, 2014, when they turned themselves in to police. The six others who accompanied the trio on Monday night face charges for actions police allege were committed between September 27 -28, 2014.
All nine were released on bail last night and will appear at Eastern Court on Thursday.
Experts asked if political considerations were at play because the prosecution came just a day after Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor won the chief executive leadership election.
Civic Party chairman Alan Leong Kah-kit, who is a senior counsel, believed that political factors were behind the timing, questioning why police chose to charge the nine on Monday when the Department of Justice had advised the force months ago.
“Why was this the timing when the files had already been passed to police half a year ago? Why did [the force] pick that day? If no political considerations were involved, what considerations were involved?” Leong said in a Commercial Radio programme on Tuesday.
Lam was quick to distance herself from the arrests, stressing that she had no prior knowledge. “This is the action of the current administration,” she said on Monday. Leong also believed that Lam played no role in the timing of the prosecutions, as she would not have wanted the press to throw such questions at her while she was on a tour to visit people in different districts on Monday.
The Occupy leaders and participants faced counts on the same day that former superintendent Franklin Chu King-wai was charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm after hitting passer-by Osman Cheng Chung-hang with his baton during the Occupy protests.
Lam on Tuesday said in a Commercial Radio programme that she would ask the current administration if they could suspend this year’s primary three Basic Competency Assessment (BCA), an easier version of the Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA).
“I was so worried about the overdrilling nature of the TSA,” Lam said.
However, in response to what Lam said about the assessment, Leung said this year’s BCA would not be cancelled. “Whether or not to cancel the assessment will leave to the next administration after July 1,” he reiterated. The chief executive-elect later said she would respect Leung’s decision.