Judge David Dufton of the District Court continues to be targeted by pro-police groups, despite warnings from the justice department that those making offensive remarks or threats against judges may be prosecuted.
The wave of attacks against the judge arose after he convicted seven police officers last week of assaulting activist Ken Tsang during the 2014 pro-democracy Occupy protests. The officers were handed two years of jail time, a sentence that police groups and supporters said was too heavy.
During a pro-police demonstration last Saturday, a protester dressed up as a judge said “I’m just a dog.” Calling someone a dog is an insult in Chinese.
Some rally-goers also pretended to hit the protester, while others shouted “fucking David.”
The pro-Beijing think tank Politihk Social Strategic organised Saturday’s rally. Its chairman Innes Tang questioned the credibility of news footage used as evidence in the trial, and criticised Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen for failing in his duty to prosecute the organisers behind the Occupy protesters.
Threats of violence
Online attacks also targeted non-Chinese judges, calling them foreigners who “rebel against China and mess up Hong Kong.” Police supporters said the law should be changed so that those with foreign passports cannot serve as judges in the city.
Patrick Ko Tat-pun, an outspoken activist of the pro-Beijing group “Voice of Loving Hong Kong,” told Apple Daily earlier this month that some judges were “indoctrinated with Western values,” which differ from the values of “Chinese society” in Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, the son of a powerful People’s Liberation Army commander, Cai Xiaoxin, offered RMB10,000 on Chinese social media for someone to “beat” Judge Dufton. He emphasised in the post that the judge was a “British bastard.”
Cai also reposted a commentary on the police assault case. The commentary criticised Hong Kong’s legal system for “still being controlled by the rules written by British people.”
“Don’t worry, [China] will accelerate the process of taking back the power granted to Hong Kong’s judiciary. This can be done before 2047,” Cai said in a separate social media post.
A police spokesperson told HKFP that the Regional Crime Unit of Hong Kong Island and the Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau are investigating attacks on judges. No arrest has been made.
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice told HKFP that it is “very concerned” about the demonstration and has referred conduct that may constitute contempt of court to law enforcement agencies.
“In appropriate cases, we will take follow-up actions, including initiating relevant legal proceedings,” it said.
It told HKFP last week that the public should refrain from making comments that might exert pressure on individual judges.
“There is no place for scurrilous attacks against judges made in bad faith, or conduct which is calculated to bring the administration of justice into disrepute,” it said.
The Progressive Lawyers Group also expressed concern at the attacks on Monday.
“The Secretary for Justice’s pleas have fallen on deaf ears, and the perpetrators of such outrageous and, in our view, criminally contemptuous attacks on the judiciary are now becoming increasingly mainstream,” it said in a statement.
“We trust the Secretary for Justice will take all necessary actions within his powers to ensure that the judiciary can exercise its judicial function free from any contemptuous attacks.”
But some police supporters complained that warnings from the authorities amounted to suppression by the legal sector.
They said the offence of contempt of court was being used to suppress free speech, just like what the Article 23 security law would do to society. A controversial provision in the Basic Law, Article 23 is typically supported by the pro-establishment camp.