The Hong Kong Courts’ Evolving Jurisprudence on Protests

This presentation reviews the judgments of the courts of the HKSAR between 2018 and 2021 on protests and protesters, which dealt with offences committed between 2014 and 2020. The review tends to show that from 2020, there emerges a developing strand of jurisprudence defining the nature of the protests and the action of protesters and giving guidance on their criminalization and punishment. With several judgments, the appellate courts have guided the trial courts to impose sentences that mete out punishment and deter offenders on defendants who took part in a riot, an unlawful assembly with violence, an unlawful assembly with little or no violence, and an unauthorized but largely peaceful assembly that caused city wide disruptions, with terms of imprisonment of more than 12 months being the norm. This presentation examines these turning points and their impact on the maintenance and improvement of the Rule of Law in Hong Kong.