Remorseful teens spared unrest convictions

Top News | Michael Shum and Wallis Wang 26 Nov 2020

Under-18s arrested as unrest suspects have been spared prosecution by expressing remorse and admitting they were wrong, Carrie Lam has revealed.

And more could benefit if they chose that course of action, which will mean they are either bound over to be on good behavior or handed a police superintendent's caution. Either way, they can avoid having a criminal record.

But more than 2,300 people have been prosecuted in connection with last year's unrest, and legal proceedings in most cases are under way.

For under 18s who did not commit serious offenses, Lam said, police could consider measures "conducive to their rehabilitation as appropriate."

Lam also said yesterday that she would not interfere with prosecution work of the police and the Department of Justice, but her administration was saddened at seeing so many students arrested.

And she often discussed with Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu and Police Commissioner Chris Tang Ping-keung how authorities could give students an opportunity to avoid having criminal records, and they came up with the two sets of measures.

To date that has seen 19 young people under 18 cautioned by superintendents and 11 bound over by police. Another 230 were bound over after they appeared in court. This group also avoid having criminal records. Lam appealed to parents, teachers and friends of arrested students to encourage them to admit they were wrong, adding that even if they had broken the law there was still a way out for them.

But youngsters who committed serious offenses would not avoid prosecution.

Veteran criminal barrister Cheng Huan agreed that those who were remorseful and had not committed a serious offense should be given an opportunity to rehabilitate.

He suggested the policy could be expanded to young people above 18.

"I am delighted that compassion to the young is now [a] policy," he added. "I am sure the police will use this discretionary power wisely.

"It is very important that the young ... are not tainted with a criminal conviction."

The measures were detailed as Lam defended the one country, two systems arrangement and the national security law in her policy address, saying the central government had no option but to intervene following the unrest.

"While the HKSAR has been established for over 23 years, from time to time there are still divergent views on the basic issues pertaining to the political system," she said.

"Ill-intentioned people influenced by external forces have made use of the relatively complicated social and political situation in Hong Kong to deliberately mislead the public about the relationship between the central government and the HKSAR."

Meanwhile, sources said civil servants could be sent to the mainland to monitor voting by Hongkongers there, adding that the administration is trying to mirror the polling process in the SAR.

That comes with the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau studying the feasibility of allowing Hongkongers to vote from the mainland.

The bureau could finish the study by early next year, allowing Hongkongers to vote from the mainland in the legislative elections next September.

That would also need amendment bills to go through to revise electoral laws to incorporate electronic systems in the polling process.

The bureau will also submit an amendment bill to amend laws such as the Oaths and Declarations Ordinance and the Legislative Council Ordinance to enhance oath-taking arrangements and to be clear about the legal consequences of breaking an oath.

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