There have been calls for a special court to be set up to handle the prosecution of hundreds of people arrested in protests in Hong Kong, while officials are also considering charging a man with inciting others to take part in unlawful gatherings via the internet.
Maria Tam, a pro-Beijing heavyweight, has suggested that the Hong Kong government should set up a special court to handle the huge number of people arrested in recent pro-democracy protests and riots.
Tam, who is deputy director of the Basic Law Committee of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, told Xinhua news agency that many countries set up special courts to tackle riot-related offenses and Hong Kong should do the same to manage the judicial backlog.
But she did not give any specific details such as the operation of such courts or what “special” features they might have.
A total of 2,582 people have been arrested since June up to October 14.
Police have laid charges against 443 of these people, with 230 facing a charge of rioting, which carries a maximum punishment of up to 10 years in jail.
Some 67 people have been charged with unlawful assembly, while 47 were charged with possession of weapons. The rest face charges related to other offenses, according to figures posted by the police on Facebook.
Tam’s suggestion was described as “scary” by legal sector lawmaker Dennis Kwok Wing-hang, Radio Television Hong Kong reported.
Kwok did not think setting up a special court would speed up the hearing of cases. He thought it would create more problems, such as fear about who would preside in the special court and what the relevant procedures would be.
Kwok said judges and magistrates are appointed for a reason because they are of high quality and have independent judgment. “So why do we need a special court?” Kwok asked.
‘Inciting an unlawful assembly’
Meanwhile, a 37-year-old man was arrested on Wednesday for alleged “inciting others to take part in an unlawful assembly” at his home in Kwai Chung in the New Territories. The man was said to have released false information online and incited people, Apple Daily reported.
Lau Wan-tat, chief inspector of the anti-triad bureau, said police and the Justice Department were working with the Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau and had found calls were made online to incite other people to besiege government buildings and police facilities in September.
After an investigation, they arrested the man – a construction worker said to be using the name Kim Jong-un (same as the North Korean leader) online – for alleged publicizing false information online. They confiscated a computer and three mobile phones at his home.
The man allegedly listed a number of suicides online and implied that the arrested people died because of brutal treatment by police in San Uk Ling Holding Center.
The facility is located in a remote area on Man Kam Road in Sheung Shui, near the border with Shenzhen and has been the target of a number of complaints, with allegations that police abused protesters and refused to give them access to medical treatment or their lawyers.
He is also accused of calling on people to besiege the facility to save citizens who had been arrested, Sing Pao reported.
The police have regularly had to deny rumors online about misconduct by officers, such as conducting body searches without good reason to allegations of protesters being framed on bogus charges.
If the man is charged with incitement, it will be a rare move, given his alleged offense relates to a post that he put online. However, sources have said Justice Department officials are seriously considering pursuing the case, Ming Pao Daily reported.
Ban on police being named?
Meanwhile, Justice officials are also considering a ban on revealing the names of police officers involved in cases related to the protests.
A case about a police officer who was attacked in Mong Kok was heard at Kowloon City Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday. But the injured officer was only identified as “W” in the court.
A prosecutor also asked a magistrate to not reveal the identity of a taxi driver and police involved in a notorious case about a taxi driver who was attacked by protesters on October 6 after he ran his car into the sidewalk and injured two women in Sham Shui Po.
But the magistrate criticized the move, saying the request was not usual practice and would affect the defendant and lead to an unfair trial.
Meanwhile, the government and police are also believed to be studying a system to accredit reporters in a bid to manage the press at protest sites.
The government information service said they had received a large number of emails claiming that “fake reporters” appeared at protest sites, so it has requested the government regulate the media better.
The idea was criticized by the Hong Kong Press Photographers Association and Hong Kong Journalists Association, who fear the move will limit press freedom.