Chief Executive Carrie Lam has dismissed suggestions that an intervention by the Secretary for Justice to block two private prosecutions related to last year's anti-government protests was politically motivated and said people making such allegations are disrespecting the judiciary.
Speaking ahead of her weekly Executive Council meeting on Tuesday, Lam said: "To sort of allege that the Secretary for Justice is doing political intervention is totally unfair and inappropriate, because by so doing you are also casting doubt and disrespect on Hong Kong’s judiciary system."
She said she could not go into further details about the case because all prosecution matters and any legal matters fall under the purview of the Secretary for Justice.
Lam's comments come after the Department of Justice (DOJ) said at a hearing on Monday that it would not be pursuing the case involving a taxi driver who allegedly rammed protesters with his vehicle in Sham Shui Po last October, or a traffic police officer who shot a student protester in Sai Wan Ho in November.
Prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence to proceed, and that the Secretary for Justice, Teresa Cheng, believed there was no reasonable prospect of conviction and no cases to answer.
Both cases were initiated by Democratic Party lawmaker Ted Hui, who expressed disappointment with the decision on Monday and accused the DOJ of "working under a black box".
But legal scholar Eric Cheung from the University of Hong Kong said the intervention would harm public confidence in the judicial system.
“Justice must not only be done, but must be manifestly be seen to be done, so it’s very important for the public to have confidence that the decision is purely based on evidence but not based on political considerations,” he said.
Cheung said it would be hard to convince people that the cases were blocked because of insufficient evidence, because the DOJ did not follow convention to seek outside legal opinion on the politically sensitive cases.