The Court of Final Appeal has made it clear that police officers never need to seek permission or an invitation from the Legislative Council president in order to enter the legislature's complex.
The five-judge panel made the ruling in a written judgement on Thursday as they gave detailed explanations over their earlier refusal to grant leave for an appeal to a protester who was jailed for 13 months for trying to force his way into the Legco complex.
The defendant, Leung Hiu-yeung, was among demonstrators protesting in 2014 against the government’s plan to develop the northeastern New Territories.
Leung intended to appeal against his conviction for “obstructing an officer of the council”. His lawyer had argued in an earlier hearing that a police inspector deployed to the scene was not an officer of the Legislative Council, and should not have been allowed into the complex without the invitation of the then-Legco President Tsang Yok-sing.
But the top court noted that the law “says nothing about such officers having first to be invited to enter the premises”, adding that as long as the police officers are on duty, they qualify as “an officer of the council”.
The court noted that the Basic Law immunises lawmakers from arrest when attending meetings, but that is only to “ensure freedom of speech and debate essential to the legislative process” and has nothing to do with the enforcement of ordinary criminal law.
The judges said that in practice, if police assistance was required, it is likely that a request would be made by “a responsible person” in Legco, such as a security guard.