Hong Kong’s legal community has condemned a series of verbal attacks against a magistrate who jailed retired superintendent Frankly Chu on Wednesday.
“We deeply regret the recent abusive remarks made by some protestors against a magistrate on grounds totally unrelated to the reasonings in her judgment,” human rights lawyer Philip Dykes, legal scholar Johannes Chan and four other barristers said in a statement on Wednesday.
The remarks came after dozens of Chu’s supporters hurled insults at Principal Magistrate Bina Chainrai after she sentenced Chu to three months in prison for hitting a pedestrian with a baton during the 2014 pro-democracy Occupy protests.
On Wednesday, dozens of people gathered outside the Eastern Magistrates’ Courts to show support for Chu. Following the sentencing, they hurled insults at Magistrate Chainrai, calling her a “dog” and making racial slurs about her.
They said foreign judges were not welcome and that it would only be fair if “Chinese people were tried by Chinese judges.” The protesters said the judiciary was being unfair and called on the justice secretary to resign.
In response, Dykes and his team – who are contesting for the upcoming Bar Association election – said Wednesday that the “racial undertone” had no place in Hong Kong society.
“Non-Chinese judges constitute an integral part of the landscape under the Basic Law and have profound contribution to Hong Kong’s rule of law and legal system,” they said.
“Any attack on judges for reasons unconnected to their decisions, irrespective of their nationality, sex or other personal attributes that they possess, are wholly unacceptable and must be strongly condemned.”
The Progressive Lawyers Group also condemned the incident. “Any attack on anyone based on one’s ethnicity must not be tolerated. Not only is such [an] attack unwarranted, but it also undermines the role of Hong Kong as an international city,” it said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Even worse, personal attacks on a judge for reasons unrelated to the judgment is an attack on Hong Kong’s judicial independence.”
Both groups expressed concern that personal attacks against judges may become a trend if the government does not take action. They urged the secretary for justice to defend the judiciary.
On Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice told HKFP that malicious attacks on judges may constitute contempt of court. It said it had referred the incident to law enforcement agencies and declined to comment further.
Similar incidents took place last year when District Court Judge David Dufton jailed seven police officers for two years for beating activist Ken Tsang in another high-profile police assault case during the Occupy protests.
Some police supporters made racist remarks and accused non-Chinese judges of “plotting against China and messing up Hong Kong.” The case sparked renewed discussions on the nationality of Hong Kong judges among Chinese scholars and pro-Beijing groups.
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The Bar Association condemned the incident at the time and urged people to express their views rationally.
The Department of Justice also said at the time that it had informed law enforcement agencies of the conduct in question, though no arrests have been made so far.