90 court cases related to 2019 Hong Kong protests took 300-400 days to conclude

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It took 300 to 400 days for some 90 court cases related to the 2019 protests to reach a conclusion, Hong Kong’s security secretary revealed in a written response to the Legislative Council (LegCo).

A scene from the 2019 anti-extradition protest. File photo: May James/HKFP.

On Wednesday, Security Secretary Chris Tang responded to questions posed by LegCo’s only “non-establishment” member, Tik Chi-yuen, about arrest figures and processing times for lawsuits related to the cases of protest and national security.

Referring to some 90 protest-related cases, Tang said the time between the defendants’ first appearance in the trial courts and the conclusion of their case in the district court “generally ranged from around 300 to 400 days”. – about 30% more than other criminal cases.

The median processing time for the Magistrates’ Courts was around 100 days. The median time for cases transferred from the Magistrates’ Courts to the District Court was 21 days.

At the district court level, it took a median of about 200 days for cases to close for defendants who pleaded guilty. For cases that went to trial, the median time was about 380 days.

Riot police overpower a protester during a protest in 2019. File photo: May James/HKFP

Tang said the courts have “always proactively given priority” to handling cases related to the protests and the national security law, and the judiciary is “working to set a date as early as possible.” for cases involving a large number of defendants.

“[T]The processing time of each case, from the first court date to conclusion, depends on a range of factors, many of which are beyond the control of the judiciary,” he added.

The security chief listed investigation and evidence gathering, arrangements made by defendants for legal representatives, seeking legal advice by both parties, and other trial preparation procedures as examples of these “ factors”.

These were “necessary measures” to “ensure the proper administration of justice”, he said.

Security Secretary Chris Tang. Photo: Selina Cheneg/HKFP.

In addition, Tang said the judiciary has adopted various measures to speed up the processing of such cases, such as longer hours and more resources.

Protests erupted in June 2019 against a since-deleted extradition bill. They have degenerated into sometimes violent demonstrations of dissent against police behavior, amid calls for democracy and anger at Beijing’s encroachment. Protesters have demanded an independent investigation into police conduct, amnesty for those arrested and an end to the labeling of protests as “riots”.

In February, Tang said Hong Kong courts had already disposed of some 1,700 protest-related cases, or 83% of the total number of around 2,100.

According to Tang, 94% of the cases brought to trial courts have already been concluded. The roughly 190 cases pending in the district courts were “the looming challenge” in the next one or two years.

Tang said the courts received a total of 85 national security cases, of which 64 were concluded.

District court. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Tang did not provide a processing time for these national security cases, nor for protest-related cases that had been transferred to the High Court.

More than 2,800 people prosecuted during 2019 protests

The Secretary of Security also provided the latest law enforcement statistics regarding the 2019 protests and national security breaches in his written response.

As of February 28, Tang said the force had arrested 10,277 people linked to the 2019 protests and unrest, of which 2,804, or 27.3 percent, have been prosecuted. The court had sentenced 1,172 of them and the proceedings against 939 are currently ongoing.

On the other hand, Tang said a total of 175 people have been arrested for “committing acts that endanger national security” and 112 of them have been charged. He said eight people had already been convicted and 78 of the others had been remanded in custody.

In June 2020, Beijing inserted national security legislation directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – after a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalized subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces, and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption of transportation and other infrastructure. The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming Democrats, civil society groups and business partners, as these laws have been widely used to silence and punish dissidents in China. However, authorities say it has restored stability and peace to the city.

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