Hong Kong’s justice department is set to strike down a private prosecution a former opposition lawmaker had brought against his pro-Beijing rival over assault in a chaotic Legislative Council meeting, after charging the former with contempt over the same incident.
Ex-legislator Raymond Chan Chi-chuen said he received on Friday a Department of Justice notice on the termination of his legal bid, just an hour after he had stepped out of West Kowloon Court where he faced his share of charges in the afternoon.
The notice, seen by the Post, said the department would take over from Chan’s prosecution against pro-Beijing lawmaker Kwok Wai-keung, whose act was captured in news videos.
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The department would on next Monday “offer no evidence” against Kwok during a court hearing – a legal line meaning prosecutors are dropping the case, according to the letter signed by senior assistant director of public prosecutions Anthony Chau.
Chan denounced what he called a state of partiality. “If you support the government and belong to the pro-establishment camp, there is nothing for you to be afraid of even if you break the law,” he said.
He slammed prosecutors for failing to abide by their code of conduct, accusing them of “politically motivated non-prosecution”.
The saga is centred on a chaotic meeting on May 8 involving the House Committee, which scrutinises bills introduced into Legco and decides when they are put to a final vote. The session descended into chaos and the pro-establishment camp seized control of the committee to begin clearing a backlog of bills for review, a surprise move pan-democrats claimed was an abuse of power.
Footage of the ruckus showed Kwok grabbing Chan by the collar and dragging him to the ground.
Chan, who was then a sitting legislator, was arrested earlier this week alongside seven opposition colleagues. They were on Friday charged with contempt under the Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance, and obstructing Legco officers.
A justice department spokesman said it would not comment on the ongoing proceedings.
Chan launched a private prosecution in late May against Kwok after accusing police and prosecutors of failing to act. Under the city’s Magistrates Ordinance, a resident can initiate criminal proceedings against another, although ultimate authority rests with the secretary for justice.
Chan’s court action was approved by a magistrate earlier, but the Department of Justice asked the court to delay Kwok’s plea to give it time to consider.
The opposition bloc decried the arrests of their colleagues as “selective prosecution” earlier this week.
Kwok has yet to face any criminal consequences.
Chan said he would write to the justice department to question the matter over Kwok, and consider whether to challenge its decision by lodging a judicial review.
Kwok said he was “a bit surprised” that the department was so late in taking action. “I have already given up and did a lot of preparation work,” he said. “On that day, I was only taking action because some people were getting radical, and could potentially hurt others, including security guards.
“There seems to be political motive behind the private prosecution [against me] as the opposition lawmakers could have expected to be arrested too,” he added.
It was the third time the Department of Justice had terminated private prosecutions brought by opposition figures this year. The remaining two bids stemmed from the anti-government protests last year.
Opposition lawmaker Ted Hui Chi-fung, who was responsible for both actions, launched his bids to pursue a taxi driver accused of ramming his vehicle into a group of protesters, and a police officer who fired a shot at a demonstrator.
The courts approved both attempts before the Department of Justice stepped in to shelve them.
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