The Court of Appeal has rejected an appeal by activist Raphael Wong to overturn his jail sentence for failing to comply with an injunction to clear the 2014 Umbrella Movement protest site in Mong Kok.
The League of Social Democrats Vice-chair was among 20 protesters convicted of contempt of court over the clearance. He pleaded not guilty and was given a four-and-a-half month jail sentence in January. He was not permitted to post bail. An appeal was heard earlier this month.
The Court of Appeal rejected his application on all grounds in a judgment handed down on Friday.
The judges said that when a party to a court order obstructs the bailiff in executing the order, they commit a criminal contempt. For such a criminal contempt, no specific intent to interfere with the administration of justice is required.
“[I]t is axiomatic that in Hong Kong where the rule of law reigns, the due administration of justice can in no way be interfered with. Those who strike at it strike at the very foundations of our society,” the judgment said.
“In our view, on an objective assessment of the evidence overall, how Mr Wong conducted himself at the material times showed, beyond reasonable doubt, that his acts were not only inherently likely to but did in fact impede and obstruct the bailiff officers in discharging their duty when executing the Amended Injunction Order,” it said.
The judges said Wong had seriously frustrated the purpose of the injunction and undermined the public confidence in its effective enforcement. They said he diminished respect for the injunction as a court order and the court’s authority in granting it, and also defied the bailiff’s authority in enforcing it.
“His conduct had seriously interfered with the administration of justice by the established courts of law as a whole and constituted an affront to the rule of law. His conduct is more than a civil contempt,” they said.
“It plainly amounts to a criminal contempt which warrants the imposition of a punitive sanction. The nature of his breach of the Amended Injunction Order was sufficiently flagrant enough to render his conduct a criminal contempt.”
Wong will be required to pay the Department of Justice its costs for the appeal. His own costs are to be taxed in accordance with legal aid regulations.
The Demosisto party’s Joshua Wong pleaded guilty to the same charges and was sentenced to three months behind bars, but he was permitted to post bail. The other activists, including former Occupy student leader Lester Shum, received suspended sentences.
League of Social Democrats former lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung said they will consider appealing to a higher court.
“This was the first case where the government filed a criminal contempt of court charge on behalf of the court. There is still debate as to whether the standard for conviction is the same as other criminal cases,” he said outside the courthouse. “[The appeal] is not only for Raphael Wong and Joshua Wong, but for people in similar cases in the future.”