Charges ‘won’t be dropped’ against 15 held for HK protests

Hong Kong, April 26 (IANS) Hong Kong officials have slammed suggestions the arrests of 15 pro-democracy figures for their roles in unlawful protests were politically motivated as they insisted the charges would not be dropped, it was reported on Sunday.

Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung and Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah on Sunday rejected international and domestic criticism of the rounding up earlier this month of barrister Martin Lee Chu-ming and media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, as well as 13 other veterans and supporters of the opposition camp, reports the South China Morning Post (SCMP) newspaper.

Cheng said city prosecutors acted independently and should not be influenced by remarks from overseas politicians that were not based on evidence and the law, as she urged people to refrain from commenting on the cases “as it may bring about the undesirable effect of a trial by the public”.

“Statements made requesting the (Department of Justice) to drop all the charges or uttered with a view to affecting the DOJ’s role in controlling criminal prosecutions are futile,” she wrote.

“It is plainly wrong to label our prosecutions as ‘politicised’. On the contrary, no one will be above the law or be treated differently…”

In a blog post, Cheung said local and foreign individuals had made “biased” and “unreasonable” accusations against Hong Kong law enforcement.

“Anyone, including foreign governments and lawmakers, cannot interfere with Hong Kong’s internal affairs or try to interfere with the Department of Justice’s independent decision to prosecute,” the SCMP quoted the city’s No 2 official as saying in the post.

Fifteen pro-democracy activists and their supporters were on April 18 arrested on suspicion of organising and participating in unauthorised marches on August 18, October 1 or October 20, 2019.

The events related to the anti-government unrest sparked in June last year by the now-withdrawn extradition bill.

On April 18, police said the 15 would be charged shortly or had already been so and were due to appear before magistrates at Eastern Court on May 18.

The arrested drew responses from the UN, the International Bar Association, as well as the US, UK and Australian governments and politicians.