The Department of Justice (DoJ) will make fresh applications for leave to commence contempt proceedings against 17 activists involved in last year’s pro-democracy Occupy protests. It comes after the DoJ failed to follow proper procedures.

The High Court ruled against the government on September 1 after the 17 were charged with criminal contempt of court for violating an injunction order related to the Occupy protest site in Mong Kok last November. The ruling came after prosecutors failed to hand in a relevant document to the court in time, violating court rules. The DoJ will not lodge an appeal against decision, as Tuesday was the deadline.

However, a spokesman for DoJ said on Tuesday that Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung “took the view that the overall public interest… can be best served by making fresh applications instead of appealing against the decision.”

rimsky yuen
File Photo: Rimsky Yuen. Photo: Gov HK.

The spokesman said the Yuen’s role in criminal contempt proceedings is to highlight matters similar to an ‘amicus curiae’ —legal term for friend of the court— “in the interests of the administration of justice” so that the court “can decide whether or not to punish the persons involved for contempt.”

Jeffrey Chan, one of the 17 activists, told HKFP: “I welcome the DoJ’s decision not to appeal. I think the prior judgement was very clear and thorough that it leaves little room for success in appeal. I expected the DoJ to seek fresh new proceedings… and I expect the court to grant it,”

“Despite the lengthy process, I very much look forward to seeing the matter enter trial so I can prove the DoJ’s allegation to be frivolous and wrong and truly put the matter behind us.”

Public interest

While the DoJ decided to reapply for contempt proceedings against the activists, it has delayed several other cases concerning the public interest.

In August, Yuen said that the DoJ was still awaiting advice from a Queen’s Counsel on whether to prosecute seven police officers for the alleged attack of Civic Party member Ken Tsang Kin-chiu during the Occupy protests.

high court
High Court in HK. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

In June, Senior Counsel Keith Yeung Kar-hung said that there will be a decision on whether to prosecute former chief executive Donald Tsang for corruption in three months, meaning by the end of this month.

Allegations that Tsang received benefits from various tycoons first surfaced in 2012, when it was reported that Tsang repeatedly appeared with top businessmen on luxury jets and yachts and that he rented a high-end apartment in Shenzhen.

Hong Kong’s former Director of Public Prosecutions Grenville Cross last week criticised the sluggish progress of Tsang’s investigation, suggesting that the length of the investigation—which has already gone on for three years and six months—could “make the Guinness World of Records.”

In March, Rimsky Yuen said at a Legislative Council meeting that it was not appropriate for him to comment on the case of Leung Chun-ying’s receiving HK$50 million in undeclared earnings from Australian corporation UGL.

Yuen said the Independent Commission Against Corruption was handling the case following complaints filed against the chief executive.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.