Calls for defendants' release shows disrespect: DOJ - RTHK
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Calls for defendants' release shows disrespect: DOJ

2021-03-02 HKT 21:24
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  • The DOJ statement came after calls for 47 pro-democracy figures facing subversion charges to be immediately released. Photo: RTHK
    The DOJ statement came after calls for 47 pro-democracy figures facing subversion charges to be immediately released. Photo: RTHK
The Department of Justice on Tuesday hit back at calls from overseas for the immediate release of 47 pro-democracy activists and politicians charged with subversion under the national security law, saying such calls show disrespect for the SAR’s judicial and legal systems.

The 47 pro-democracy figures have been in court for the past two days as defence lawyers attempt to fight a prosecution bid to deny the group bail for at least three months, so police can continue to investigate.

On Sunday, the European Union called for the pro-democracy campaigners to be released, saying that “the nature of these charges makes clear that legitimate political pluralism will no longer be tolerated in Hong Kong.”

The UK’s foreign minister Dominic Raab described the case as “deeply disturbing”, adding “it shows in the starkest terms the NSL being used to eliminate political dissent rather than restore order – contrary to what the Chinese Government promised.”

On Monday, Washington also called for the defendants’ immediate release. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Twitter: "Political participation and freedom of expression should not be crimes. The US stands with the people of Hong Kong."

On Tuesday evening, Hong Kong’s Department of Justice appeared to respond to those calls by stressing that “no one should interfere with prosecutorial decisions, which are carried out strictly in accordance with the law.”

It said prosecutorial decisions are made independently, without political considerations.

“Prosecutions would only be commenced if there is sufficient admissible evidence to support a reasonable prospect of conviction,” it added.

The department said open demands for the immediate release of defendants also undermine the rule of law.

It is “seen as an attempt to meddle in Hong Kong's affairs which are internal affairs of the People's Republic of China.”

The department also said the National Security Law expressly provides that human rights, such as freedom of speech and assembly, are protected. It also provides that legal principles such as presumption of innocence be respected and observed, it said.

It said it is inappropriate to comment further because legal proceedings are continuing.