SCMP Friday, October 6, 2000

First battle goes to students


Five student leaders arrested over a protest against tuition fees in April will not be charged - but the group still faces possible prosecution over a right-of-abode demonstration in June.
A Department of Justice spokesman said last night the decision not to prosecute was made after having "reviewed all the available evidence" and having considered "all the circumstances".
He added: "Another rally which occurred on June 26 this year is being separately considered in accordance with existing prosecution policy."
The Government has been under pressure not to charge the students, with university heads calling for lenience. The five have been accused of taking part in, or helping organise, unauthorised protests on the grounds that they did not notify police in advance, as required by the Public Order Ordinance. The students have claimed they are being targeted for political reasons, a charge the Government denies.
The five are: University of Hong Kong students' union president Gloria Chang Wan-ki, vice-president Yuen Hoi-yan, former president Chris Chan King-chi, Chinese University students' union president Fung Kai-yuen and vice-president Fung Ka-keung.
Ms Chang said it was unclear whether the Department of Justice was backing down because of pressure from the media and political groups.
"We don't want to see the department dropping the case on compassionate grounds rather than for legal reasons. And we still demand the Public Order Ordinance be reviewed," she said.
James To Kun-sun, a solicitor and Democratic Party legislator, suggested the Government might have considered its chances of success in the April 20 case were poor because there was little violence. It might have feared the prospect of the court declaring parts of the Public Order Ordinance void.
Lee Cheuk-yan, of the Confederation of Trade Unions, said: "The whole process is to test the waters. The administration has now backed down after having realised that public sentiment was unfavourable."
Bar Association chairman Ronny Tong Ka-wah said the ordinance had been passed by the provisional legislature, which lacked the people's mandate. "It should be reviewed by the new legislature, which has the mandate of people," he said.