Protest amnesties 'not concession'

Local | Amy Nip 24 Dec 2019

A University of Hong Kong law scholar has proposed amnesties be granted to both protesters and the police in a bid to address the current social unrest in Hong Kong.

The discussion paper, prepared by Anna Dziedzic, associate director of HKU's Centre for Comparative and Public Law, suggested amnesty as an immediate, short-term solution to de-escalate and calm a volatile or violent situation. Amnesty would be offered to both "sides" of the conflict - police and protesters.

"Any proposal that can quell the current turmoil and restore trust between the people, government and police should not be viewed as a concession.

Rather, negotiated and implemented in the right way, amnesty can be a win-win deal that is fair to both sides," she wrote. "The past few months have seen the most divisive events in Hong Kong's postcolonial history," the paper stated, making a case that amnesties are not contrary to the rule of law and are permitted under Hong Kong law.

Amnesties could be implemented within Hong Kong's existing legal framework via a department of justice policy of refraining from prosecution; an executive order; or a directive from the chief executive to the police.

It could be achieved by a pardon or commutation of sentence by the chief executive; expunging protesters' criminal records; or passing legislation for conditional releases.

Addressing concerns that amnesties would encourage crime and legitimize violence, the paper noted that amnesties would exclude serious crimes such as rape and murder.

Conditions may also be imposed, with the paper citing the example of prisoners released under an amnesty in Northern Ireland - who were released on the condition that they would not commit further offenses, associate with certain organizations or become a danger to the public.

The paper came as 96 people appeared in West Kowloon magistrates' courts yesterday charged with rioting over clashes at Queensway and Harcourt Road in Admiralty on September 29.

One of them, a social worker, faced an additional charge of assaulting a police officer.

All were granted bail.

Magistrate Tang Siu-hung adjourned the cases until March 13 next year. Four defendants were allowed to leave Hong Kong for short periods of time, including an 18-year-old student who will go on a study tour to Singapore.

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