National Security Law for ordinary people, ordinary law for National Security people
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Wry criticism of asymmetric application of due process experienced by pro-government and pro-democracy figures in Hong Kong.
On May 12, 2021, local media reported that Frederic Choi Chin-pang, a senior officer in the Hong Kong Police Force's National Security Department, was placed on leave after being caught in a police raid on an unlicensed massage parlor in the city. Prominent pro-establishment politicians defending Choi, calling on the public not to jump to conclusions and reminding them that common law principles dictate that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty. By May 18, Choi was cleared by the police force of illegal or immoral conduct, while six women caught in the same raid were formally arrested.
Critics pointed out the hypocrisy of Choi's defenders in rushing to remind people that defendants are "innocent until proven guilty" at a time when dozens of pro-democracy activists are languishing in prison for months on national security charges even before their trials have even begun. Choi's case is just one among many examples of unequal commitments to due process and asymmetric penalties for pro-democracy and pro-establishment defendants in Hong Kong.
Unequal Application of Justice
In November 2020, an investigative journalist with public broadcaster RTHK was arrested for making "false statements" while accessing a government vehicle license plate database, in a move widely seen at the time as an attempt by the government to curtail journalists' abilities to conduct investigations. In April 2021, she was convicted and fined $6000 HKD. Two months later, Hong Kong's Department of Justice dropped an identical charge against a reporter with Ta Kung Pao, a state-owned pro-Beijing newspaper.
Critics have also pointed to increasingly heavy sentences for pro-democracy protestors charged with unauthorized assembly, often justified by magistrates as necessary as a "deterrent." They decry the comparatively light sentences handed to individuals who have attacked pro-democracy supporters, such as [a man who received just 45 months for stabbing three people at a Lennon wall in 2019; the judge offered his sympathies to the stabber, likening the pro-democracy protestors to a "terrorist army."