9 November 2015
The high court heard today that a total of 20 activists were accused of obstructing a clearance operation of occupied roads in Mong Kok by bailiffs on November 26 last year in line with a court order and were prosecuted for contempt of court.
The defendants including Scholarism leader Joshua Wong Chi-fung, former deputy secretary-general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students Lester Shum and vice chairman of the League of Social Democrats Raphael Wong Ho-ming attended the hearing.
The court was told that the Department of Justice filed summonses against the 20 protestors in April this year. However, the trial date was not requested within two weeks.
On July 22, the department applied to amend the summonses. Subsequently, the department applied for a trial date on August 5, satisfying the 14-day requirement.
Barrister Gerard McCoy SC, representing six of the defendants, said the department did not comply with the requirement of applying for a trial date within 14 days of filing summonses against the defendants in April.
McCoy criticised the department for failing to disclose the fact that the summonses were not issued in time while amending the details of the summonses in July. He argued that the original writs had expired with the amendment to the summonses.
He requested the summonses of the defendants to be discharged. The lawyers for other defendants also said they might follow McCoy’s action to apply for the summonses to be discharged.
One of the defendants, Jason Szeto Tze-long, a student from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, did not have a representing lawyer. He told the court that he would apply for legal aid for court proceedings in future.
As both the department and lawyers of defendants asked for more time to respond, Mr Justice Anderson Chow Ka-ming adjourned the case to February 25 next year.
Outside court, Lester Shum blamed the department for not following the procedures. “The department should be familiar with the procedures but it turns out they were not,” he said.
“They have spent a large amount of taxpayers’ money to employ two experienced barristers for this case, but still failing in following the proper procedures,” he said.
He believed the department would charge the defendants again even if the defendants succeeded in having their summonses discharged.
“The long proceedings will put pressure on all of us mentally and financially,” he said.
It was not the first time the justice department failed to comply with the legal requirement to fix a trial date accordingly.
In another case, 17 activists alleged to have “interfered with or impeded the due execution of the injunction order” in Mong Kok on November 25 last year were acquitted on September 1. The acquittal is due to procedural errors committed by the department. Fresh summonses were filed against the 17 activists by the department again after two months.