A Hong Kong magistrate whose rulings in protest-related cases came under fire from pro-Beijing lawmakers has been transferred to the High Court to take up an administrative post, local media have reported.

Sing Tao Daily reported on Monday that Stanley Ho Chun-yiu, in his new role as senior deputy registrar, would not adjudicate in criminal cases. He will assume the post next Friday and his term is expected to end on June 17 next year, Apple Daily reported.

stanley ho chun yiu
Magistrate Stanley Ho Chun-yiu.

It quoted sources as saying that the appointment was made six months ago, before he heard any protest-related cases.

According to the judiciary’s website, the registrar will be responsible for listing cases for trial.

Ho was called to the Bar in Hong Kong in 2005 and appointed as permanent magistrate in 2014. He is likely to earn at least HK$50,000 more in his new role, The Standard reported.

In August, he acquitted District Councillor Jocelyn Chau on a charge of assaulting a police officer during a protest. Ho deemed the officers’ testimony unreliable and said they told “lie after lie.”

Pro-Beijing figures hit out

Days after the judgement, pro-Beijing lawmaker Elizabeth Quat wrote a letter of complaint to Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma, demanding Ho be removed from protest-related cases. She detailed eight cases handled by Ho in which the defendants were either acquitted or sentenced to penalties that she considered lenient.

In April, district judge Kwok Wai-kin was also removed from adjudicating protest-related cases. But in his case he expressed sympathy with a pro-government assailant and compared pro-democracy demonstrators to “terrorists.”

Holden Chow
Holden Chow. Photo: Inmediahk.net, via CC 2.0.

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Holden Chow told reporters on Monday that he thought Magistrate Ho’s remarks in the district councillor’s case had been biased. He dismissed criticism that his own comments constituted interference with judicial independence.

“I think the judiciary should use the same standards to view different magistrates and avoid giving the public the impression of a double standard,” Chow said.

Rachel Wong previously worked as a documentary producer and academic researcher. She has a BA in Comparative Literature and European Studies from the University of Hong Kong. She has contributed to A City Made by People and The Funambulist, and has an interest in cultural journalism and gender issues.