In continuing the injunction against doxxing with an exception for legitimate news activity, Justice Russell Coleman makes interesting comments on the role of the judiciary and the need for a political solution to the social unrest, which is beyond the scope of the courts.

Judge takes aim at comments by Vice Premier
11 November 2019

This morning sees the online publication of Friday's Court of First Instance ruling by Justice Russell Coleman on the continuation of an injunction against doxxing the HK Police and their families, modified to make clear that it does not apply to legitimate "news activity", as defined in Section 61(2)(b) of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance, following an application by the Hong Kong Journalists Association, of which your editor is an Associate Member.

Notably, the judgment at paragraph 15 names a Telegram group with "nearly 200,000 members as of 3 November 2019" which is the "main platform for such doxxing" - perhaps unwisely drawing more attention to it. We won't repeat it here. The channel appears to have been removed but has been replaced with another with the same prefix. There are also channels which are doxxing protesters too - and the Government has not seen fit to apply for an injunction against that. The Secretary for Justice appears to be adopting an asymmetric approach in seeking to protect the Police and their families but not the protesters and their families, keeping in mind that the vast majority of protesters in the last 6 months have not been violent.

The judgment also makes the following observations, which we take as an indirect reference to the comments of PRC Vice Premier Han Zheng, who told Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Wednesday (6-Nov-2019) that stopping violence in HK is a "common responsibility" of Hong Kong's executive, legislature and the judiciary branches. Justice Coleman writes:

36. As an aside, I do not think any judicial officer in Hong Kong requires anyone, whether from in Hong Kong or beyond, to tell him or her how to perform his or her role as part of the independent judiciary. Nor will any judicial officer lose sight of the fact that, whilst the judiciary is one of the three powers recognised under the doctrine of the ‘separation of powers’, it is precisely the independence of the judiciary, guaranteed under the Basic Law, which confirms its separation from the other two powers of the legislature and the executive.

37. So it may be that matters relating to what underpins the current social unrest in Hong Kong need to be dealt with, perhaps can only be dealt with, through political means. But that is not what gives rise to the application now before this Court.

VP Han Zheng's comments also prompted a statement on Saturday (9-Nov-2019) from the Hong Kong Bar Association, which included:

Although the desire to see the present troubles ended is obviously understandable, any statement made by the Central People’s Government or its officials, which could be taken as an official exhortation to judges to achieve a particular objective may be seen as an encroachment on the independence of the judiciary. This can injure the principle of high degree of autonomy for the HKSAR as enshrined in the Basic Law and undermine the concept and practice of one-country, two-systems.

Justice Coleman is a former Chairman of the HKBA.

© vnintl.com, 2019


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