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Lee hopeful for deterrent sentences | Updated: 2019-11-02 13:37
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Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu said he hopes Hong Kong's courts will deliver authoritative judgments quickly on a number of major cases related to the violent, lawless protests against the now-defunct extradition bill.

In an exclusive interview with China Daily, Lee said that if the sentences are sufficiently harsh, they will serve as a useful deterrent that could help stop the violence and curb the civil unrest.

He also called on influential people and key opinion leaders to condemn, rather than condone, violent and unlawful acts. When the degree of violence is reduced, the government will do more work to reconcile, resolve deep-rooted problems in society, and put Hong Kong back on the right track, Lee added.

"The number of cases and number of arrests have increased significantly in recent months, and the police need long time to investigate and collect evidence. The court will make appropriate arrangements that the prosecution requests.

"At present, no major cases are being heard. But in November, several key cases with the offenders charged with rioting will be heard in the district court," he said.

"The sooner we have authoritative court judgments on important cases and society is united in condemning violence, the sooner peaceful days will return to Hong Kong."

The security chief cited a speech made by Geoffrey Ma Tao-li, chief justice of the Court of Final Appeal, on Wednesday. At an education forum, Ma encouraged young people to learn to tolerate, respect and compromise, which are virtues at the heart of the rule of law.

"Chief Justice Ma's remarks are very important," Lee said. "When one exercises rights and freedoms in any free society, it is the most important thing to respect the rights and freedoms of other people. If a person ignores other people's rights and freedoms, he will only aggravate conflicts, confrontations and the awareness of the rule of law because Hong Kong society has huge respect for the courts."

It is very dangerous for influential people and key opinion leaders, including university leaders, to legitimize and glorify acts of violence, Lee said.

"It is a very dangerous trend, especially when immature teenagers are involved. I have seen students in their teens who only chanted slogans at protest activities but they did not have any deep thinking at all."

Lee backdated the surge of the defiance of rule of law to the illegal "Occupy Central" protests in 2014. "A kind of negative impact arose at that time, with some people doing whatever they think is right or reasonable without regard to the law," he said, criticizing people for defying letters of objection from police on rallies and the appeal board decisions upholding the ban.

Media bias

On the relationship between the police and the media, Lee said they both have their own work to do, and they must respect each other. However, some media organizations and reporters have very strong political inclinations, and their news coverage is biased, he added.

He said that at the scenes of police operations on illegal protesters, there have been fake reporters in the crowds. As there were also genuine reporters and bystanders between police officers and the protesters, they caused problems to police operations as officers need to get through several layers of people to reach the protesters.

"The Security Bureau and police management have asked front-line policemen to facilitate media reporting, while police have also set up media liaison teams that other departments do not have," Lee said. "It is a big challenge since there have been so many protests since June involving so many people. I hope police and the press will understand each other's work and coordinate better."

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