Hong Kong’s top officials have hit back at local and international criticism of the arrests of 15 high-profile democrats. They said such criticism was “biased and unreasonable” and politically motivated, while insisting that charges would not be dropped.

Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung wrote in his blog on Sunday that their arrests and prosecution – connected to alleged cases of “organising and participating in unlawful assemblies” – were made in strict accordance with the law and the Department of Justice’s Prosecution Code.

Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung. File photo: GovHK.

He said overseas governments and parliament members should stay out of Hong Kong’s internal affairs, and refrain from intentionally interfering with the justice department’s independent prosecution decision.

“In the past week, some local and foreign politicians had made biased and unreasonable accusations of the Hong Kong police arrests of several persons for allegedly organising and participating in unlawful assemblies, and the Department of Justice’s prosecution work,” Cheung said.

“The rule of law and judicial independence are Hong Kong’s core values. Any unfair and false allegations are unacceptable and need to be refuted,” he added.

The chief secretary’s remarks came after media tycoon Jimmy Lai, alongside with former chairs of the Democratic Party Martin Lee and Albert Ho, the Labour Party’s Lee Cheuk-yan, League of Social Democrats’ vice-chair Leung Kwok-hung and 10 other major pro-democracy figures were apprehended on April 18.

Local and overseas politicians and rights groups – including the city’s last colonial governor Chris Patten – condemned the arrests as an “unprecedented assault” on the city’s rule of law, freedom of expression and right to assembly.

The Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng echoed Cheung’s comments in her blog on Sunday, saying that the Department of Justice would act independently without influence from public opinions and overseas politicians who based their comments on “political motives.”

“It becomes interesting when overseas media and politicians embark upon allegations or purported demands relating to Hong Kong’s prosecutorial decisions,” she wrote.

Teresa Cheng. File photo: GocHK.

“It is plainly wrong to label our prosecutions as ‘politicised’. On the contrary, no one, be they tycoons or politicians, will be above the law or be treated differently simply because they have a certain status or are pursuing certain beliefs or goals,” she said.

Cheng also called demands for charges to be dropped as “futile,” adding that any comment on the ongoing legal proceedings might lead to an “undesirable effect” of a trial by the public.

“If we are to accede or be seen to yield to unreasonable demands to drop charges irresponsibly, we would not only be unfair and unprofessional but would also act in violation of the spirit of the rule of law,” she added.

Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.