Open court closed by the police

Press Release

26 July 2000

The Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor welcomes the Chief Justice's decision to order an internal investigation with a view to ascertaining the facts and what improvements, if any, should be introduced in response to news reports of a court room being locked up without authority yesterday by the police for security reason in the Tsuen Wan Magistracy.

The press and the public were thereby excluded from the court hearing which was supposed to be open to the public.

The judiciary's statement confirms, "the Court had not given any permission to anyone to refuse access to the courts by members of the public or the media because it is of paramount importance that court proceedings are conducted in an open, just and fair manner."

There is in fact another more serious incident in which parties to a case have been excluded by the police without authority.

On 30 June 2000 the Court of First Instance handed down its judgment in the case of Ng Siu Tung (the case involving 5000 some rights of abode claimants), a court observer from the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor witnessed that the police without lawful authority have prevented any of the applicants in the case from entering the court building to hear the judge hand down the judgment in their own case.

The Monitor has checked that no order was given by the judge to exclude anyone from the hearing, which was in open court. However a very large police presence cordoned off the High Court building and prevented any right of abode litigant from entering. Preventing litigants from entering court to hear their own case is something unknown to modern Hong Kong. It is a serious erosion of the proper legal process. Justice must be seen to be done. We have not learned of any investigation into the incident.

We call on the judiciary to investigate that case as well. We also call on the Government and the Commissioner of Police to confirm that the police will never again take such illegal and oppressive action.

2000 (c) Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor

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