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LCQ18: Public meetings and processions

     Following is a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, to a question by the Hon Alan Leong in the Legislative Council today (March 27):


     Recently, a number of political party members have been arrested by the Police and charged with the offence of unlawful assembly on the ground that they had participated in public processions and public assemblies nearly a year ago. It has been reported that the Police said that after receiving the instructions from the Department of Justice (DoJ), they had expeditiously contacted the persons concerned to assist in the investigation. Regarding the issues relating to the investigations into and the institution of prosecutions for public processions and public assemblies-related offences, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) from 2004 to 2012 and in the first two months of this year, of the numbers of participants of public processions, demonstrations and public assemblies who had been arrested by the Police for the alleged offences of unauthorised assembly, unlawful assembly, obstruction of public place and causing public nuisance, etc. (set out in Annex 1);

(b) among the persons mentioned in (a),

(i) of the numbers of those who were arrested by the Police on the spot (set out by year in a table of the same format as Annex 1);

(ii) for cases in which the persons concerned were not arrested on the spot, of the respective average, median and maximum numbers of days between the dates on which the arrested persons participated in the processions, demonstrations or assemblies concerned and the dates of arrests (set out by year in tables of the same format as Annex 2); and

(iii) of the numbers of persons who were eventually prosecuted by DoJ (set out by year in a table of the same format as Annex 1); the respective average, median and maximum numbers of days between the dates of prosecutions and the dates of arrests (set out by year in tables of the same format as Annex 2); and

(c) as the performance pledges of the Prosecutions Division under DoJ state that upon the receipt of a request from a law enforcement agency for legal advice or upon the receipt of an enquiry on matters relating to prosecution decision, the Division will provide such advice or reply to such enquiry within 14 working days, and in more complex cases, it will also provide an interim reply within this period, among the cases involving the persons mentioned in (a) which were handled by DoJ, of the percentage of cases in which these performance pledges were fulfilled each year; if the percentages are not 100%, of the reasons for that; whether there were cases in which prosecutions had been delayed; if there were such cases, whether it has examined if the responsibility rests with the Police?



     Hong Kong residents enjoy the freedom and rights of assembly and procession which are protected under the Basic Law and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance. The Police always handle public meetings and processions in a fair, just and impartial manner in accordance with the laws of Hong Kong. The operational policy of the Police is to endeavour to strike a balance by facilitating all lawful and peaceful public meetings and processions on one hand, and on the other hand, reducing the impact of such activities on other members of the public or road users, and to ensure public order and public safety. In exercising their freedom of expression, participants of public meetings or processions should, under the premise of observing the Hong Kong law and without affecting public order, conduct such activities in a peaceful and orderly manner.

     My reply to the three parts of the question by Hon Leong is as follows:

(a) to (b) Relevant figures are at Annex 3.

(c) The Department of Justice does not maintain statistics regarding its percentage of compliance with the target of providing advice within 14 days (or interim reply within 14 working days for complex cases) upon receipt of request from law enforcement agencies in respect, categorically, of cases generated from public order events. Compliance with the performance pledge aside, it must be emphasised that while the Department of Justice will at all times seek to provide legal advice to law enforcement agencies (including the Police) as quickly as possible, the actual time that it takes to provide substantive advice on each case would depend on a whole host of factors, including mainly the nature and complexity of the case. Among cases submitted to the Department for advice, the duration of the relevant public order event and the number of suspects and that of locations it involved might vary. Often, video footages had been captured by the Police as well as different news media. There would be cases in which the advising counsel required considerable time to go through the evidence, analyse the facts and circumstances of the case, and advise on the appropriate manner to dispose of the case implicating each suspect. In cases where directions were necessary for the relevant law enforcement agency to make further enquiries in order to identify, locate, arrest and conduct cautioned interviews with additional suspects (known or unknown), they would be given before the legal advice could be finalised and prosecutions (if considered appropriate) be taken forward. Hence, the time taken between the occurrence of a public order event and the time that prosecution was eventually brought, if at all, should be viewed in the proper context of each particular case.

Ends/Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Issued at HKT 16:45


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