Former ICAC Deputy Commissioner Kwok Man-wai has apologised after allegedly calling on internet users to “hunt down” the judge who approved bail for Ray Wong Toi-yeung, the leader of localism group Hong Kong Indigenous, who is accused of participating in and organising the Mong Kok clashes on February 9.
Kwok published an article on pro-Beijing website Speakout Hong Kong on Tuesday, asking for the establishment of a “Court Watch” to record and publish the names of judicial officers who gave “unreasonable” sentences. He argued it was inappropriate to grant bail to Wong as he had been hiding since the Mong Kok events.
In an earlier version of his article, he even suggested internet users should “hunt down” the judge who made the decision to grant bail to Wong. Kwok added the hunt was to “see whether there is evidence to prove [the judge] and his family’s relationships with pan-democratic parties.”
Kwok subsequently published a statement and apologised on Wednesday, saying that Speakout Hong Kong published the first draft of his article by mistake, and that he had already deleted his “emotional words” in the final version of the article. He said he “really felt angry” when he heard of the magistrate’s decision, but emphasised that he did not have any intent to harass the judge.
The apology came after the Department of Justice on Wednesday criticised some people for hampering Hong Kong’s judicial independence by speculating on the political inclinations of judicial officers. The department also said that people should respect the rule of law and avoid exerting pressure on individual judges when expressing views on court rulings.
The Progressive Lawyers Group also published a statement on Wednesday night, arguing that Kwok’s statement did not “contain any reasoned analysis”. It added that it could be reasonably argued that the comments constituted criminal contempt of court.
Ming Pao reported on Wednesday that Lawrence Ma Yan-kwok, a barrister and a member of the pro-Beijing DAB party, believed Kwok’s words did not constitute a contempt of court. He argued that Kwok did not insult the judge, adding that Kwok’s words reflected people’s disagreements with the court.
Other pro-Beijing groups have previously claimed that some judges “took sides with” the pan-democratic camp when delivering sentences. Patrick Ko Tat-bun, convenor of the pro-Beijing Voice of Loving Hong Kong Group, also called for the denunciation of judges in 2014.
Wong was arrested on Sunday following his participation in the Mong Kok clashes and charged with rioting. He was granted bail on Tuesday following his first appearance in court.