LCQ11: Arrests and prosecutions in relation to public order events

     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Elizabeth Quat and a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, in the Legislative Council today (March 2):


     Under Article 27 of the Basic Law, members of the public shall have freedom of assembly, freedom of demonstration, etc.  Nevertheless, quite a number of people committed violent acts during demonstrations in recent years.  There have been public comments that one of the factors contributing to such a situation is the overly lenient punishments imposed on people convicted for committing the aforesaid acts.  As a result, those punishments lack deterrent effect and those people therefore consider that the legal consequences for organising and carrying out violent activities are negligible.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the number of demonstrators arrested in the past five years for offences allegedly committed by them, with a breakdown by offence;

(2) among the persons mentioned in (1), of the respective numbers of those who were subsequently prosecuted and convicted (with a breakdown by the punishments imposed on them); among such cases, of the heaviest punishment imposed;

(3) of the average, longest and shortest time (from commencement of investigations to institution of prosecutions) for processing demonstration-related criminal cases in the past five years;

(4) of the number of demonstrators participating in the illegal occupation movement in 2014 arrested for offences allegedly committed by them, with a breakdown by offence;

(5) among the people mentioned in (4), of the respective numbers of those who are still under investigation at present, those who are awaiting trials and those who were convicted (with a breakdown by the punishments imposed on them); and

(6) given that more and more demonstrators committed violent acts in recent years, whether the Government will introduce legislation to increase the penalties for related offences, so as to enhance the deterrent effect; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     According to Article 27 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong residents shall have freedom of assembly, of procession and of demonstration, etc.  It is the established policy of the Police to strike a balance between various aspects, including facilitating the smooth conduct of lawful and peaceful public order events, minimising the impact of such events on members of the public and road users, as well as ensuring public safety and public order, etc.  When expressing their opinion, participants of public order events must abide by the law, act in a peaceful and orderly manner, and refrain from any illegal or violent act.  The Police have the responsibility to maintain public safety and public order and protect the lives and property of the public.  If there is any illegal act, violent act or act that is detrimental to public safety and public order, the Police will not tolerate such act and will definitely enforce the law resolutely.

     Hong Kong upholds the rule of law and judicial independence.  Under our criminal justice system, the Police are responsible for law enforcement; the Department of Justice (DoJ) is responsible for prosecution; and the court is responsible for conducting trials and giving verdicts.  We respect the rulings of the court.  If the DoJ considers that it is necessary to lodge appeal in respect of a specific case, it will be handled in accordance with established mechanism and procedures.  In the past, there were persons sentenced to imprisonment by the court for committing criminal offences during public order events.

     The Government's reply to the Dr Hon Elizabeth Quat's question is as follows:

(1), (2), (4) and (5) The numbers of persons arrested and prosecuted for alleged illegal acts related to public order events from 2011 to 2015 are at Annex.

     During the illegal "Occupy Movement" in 2014, 955 persons were arrested by the Police for various alleged offences, and another 48 persons were arrested after the illegal occupation incident.  As at January 31 this year, a total of 216 persons have undergone, are undergoing or will undergo judicial proceedings.  Amongst them, 182 persons have gone through the judicial process and 116 of them have to bear legal consequences, including 74 who were convicted and 42 who were bound over upon conclusion of court proceedings.  The convictions include unlawful assembly, possession of offensive weapon, common assault, assaulting police officer, theft, indecent assault, criminal intimidation and possession of dangerous drugs etc.  The HKSAR Government will continue to follow up on relevant cases for pursuit of offenders' legal responsibility during the illegal "Occupy Movement".

     Generally speaking, the Police do not maintain statistics of persons convicted for illegal acts related to public order events.  However, since the illegal "Occupy Movement" seriously upset the rule of law, public safety and social order of Hong Kong, the Police have specifically kept conviction figures relating to the illegal occupation incident.

     The Police do not maintain statistics of court sentences for cases involving public order events.

(3) The time required to process a criminal case from commencement of investigation to institution of prosecution depends on a number of factors, including the nature and complexity of the case, evidence to be handled, duration for seeking legal advice and whether further follow-up is necessary pursuant to the legal advice, etc, making it difficult to make generalisation on such processing time.  In respect of criminal cases, the Police will make all efforts to collect evidence and complete investigation as soon as possible, with a view to bringing offenders to justice.  The DoJ will also provide detailed and comprehensively considered legal advice to law enforcement agencies (including the Police) as quickly as reasonably practicable.  The Police do not maintain statistics of the time required for processing criminal cases.

(6) The HKSAR Government strongly condemns the violent, charging and illegal acts of radical demonstrators in public order events in recent years.  The current legislation clearly states the definitions and penalties of relevant criminal offences.  As a law enforcement agency, the Police absolutely do not tolerate any illegal act and will definitely take enforcement actions in accordance with the law.  The HKSARG Government currently has no plan to amend the penalties of relevant legislation.

Ends/Wednesday, March 2, 2016
Issued at HKT 16:26