League of Social Democrats chair Avery Ng has been sentenced to four months behind bars after being convicted of revealing the identity of a government official who was under investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

In 2016, Ng, 41, disclosed to broadcaster RTHK and on social media platforms that the anti-graft body was investigating then-Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs Betty Fung.

Magistrate Cheng Lim-chi convicted Ng earlier this month. After the sentencing, Ng was released on bail for HK$20,000 pending appeal, and was forbidden from leaving Hong Kong.

Avery Ng
Avery Ng. Photo: inmediahk.net.

During mitigation, Ng was represented by barrister Randy Shek, who said the probation officer recommended 200 to 240 hours of community service, which Ng was willing to serve. Shek said Ng understood why he was convicted, and will take note of the incident when he continues to participate in public affairs in the future.

Shek added that there were eight similar cases before 2007, but there were no jail sentences given. A jail sentence of four months was given in a case after 2007, but it was reduced to three months after appeal.

But Cheng rejected a newspaper clipping submitted by Shek – which quoted an ICAC spokesperson as saying that there was only one case where a jail sentence was given – as there was only one newspaper clipping.

The prosecution said that, in eight similar cases between 2013 and 2018, four defendants were acquitted, two were given community service orders, two cases were ongoing, and two cases were pending sentencing, including Ng’s case.

betty fung icac
Betty Fung.

Cheng said remorse was a necessary condition for giving a community service order, but he did not observe Ng showing remorse over the incident.

Cheng asked Ng’s lawyer several times whether Ng accepted the reason for the verdict, which stated that Ng revealed the identity of the investigation subject in order to increase his own exposure.

Shek said Ng accepted the judge’s verdict with respect. Cheng said “with respect” usually meant that Ng did not accept the ruling. Shek reiterated that Ng accepted the verdict and did not intend to maliciously attack Fung.

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.