Court fines Sou 40,800 patacas for illegal assembly

2018-05-30 08:00     Comment:2

The Court of First Instance (TJB) yesterday found suspended directly-elected lawmaker Sulu Sou Ka Hou and fellow non-establishment activist Scott Chiang Meng Hin guilty of illegal assembly and demonstration, and fined them 40,800 patacas and 27,600 patacas respectively.

The two defendants initially faced aggravated disobedience charges as the police accused them of disobeying their orders during a demonstration on May 15, 2016 against the public Macau Foundation’s controversial decision to donate 100 million yuan (122 million patacas) to Jinan University in Guangzhou. The duo allegedly committed the crime of aggravated disobedience outside the official residence of Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On in a verbal confrontation with the police on Penha Hill.

TJB judge Cheong Weng Tong, who conducted the duo’s trial, said yesterday that witness statements and evidence showed that their acts during the May 2016 demonstration violated rules listed in the Assembly and Demonstration Law, adding that she therefore found the duo guilty of illegal assembly and demonstration as stated in Article 14 of the law.

Based on witness statements and evidence, Cheong said that Sou and Chiang intended to tell their fellow protestors to follow them to Chui’s Santa Sancha residence and submit petitions against the government’s donation decision there, adding that they insisted on holding an assembly on Penha Hill despite the fact that they clearly knew that they had not obtained the authorities’ permission to hold an assembly there.

Cheong said that the fining of the two defendants is strong enough to punish them for holding an illegal assembly, considering that both committed the crime for the first time and that the illegal assembly did not involve violence and did not last for a long time, apart from considering the duo’s motives for committing the offence. The judge said that therefore she decided to impose a fine of “120 days” each on the two defendants.

Cheong noted that the court has to convey a message to civil society that residents must exercise their rights and freedoms lawfully. She went on to say that she imposed the fines on Sou and Chiang with the aim of preventing them from committing the same crime in the future when expressing their views or conveying their demands to the government.

According to Article 14 of the Assembly and Demonstration Law enacted in 1993, a person violating rules listed in the law when holding an assembly or demonstration commits the crime of illegal assembly and demonstration and faces the penalties that are the same as the crime of aggravated disobedience as stated in the Macau Penal Code.

According to Article 312 of the Penal Code, aggravated disobedience is punishable by a fine of up to “240 days” or imprisonment of up to two years.

The judge said that considering the duo’s respective financial situations, she determined that Sou has to pay the “120-day” fine with each day equivalent to 340 patacas – meaning that the amount of Sou’s fine is 40,800 patacas, while Chiang has to pay the “120-day” fine with each day equal to 270 patacas – amounting to a fine of 27,600 patacas.

According to the Legislative Assembly Lawmakers Statute, if Sou had been sentenced to a prison term of over 30 days, his fellow legislators would have to hold a plenary session to decide whether to expel him from the legislature, in which case a by-election would have to be held.

Both the prosecution and the defence can appeal the court’s ruling within 20 days after yesterday’s announcement of the sentences.
Speaking to reporters after the judge announced the court’s ruling on the case, Sou insisted that he and Chiang were not guilty of holding an illegal assembly. However, he was quick to add that he respected the court’s judgement.

Sou said that he and Chiang would study the statement by the court on their sentences thoroughly with their lawyers before deciding whether to appeal.

When asked by the media about the possible resumption of his legislative duties following yesterday’s court ruling, Sou said that it was “too early to talk about it”, as the ruling was still subject to possible appeals by the Public Prosecution Office (MP), or him and Chiang.

Asked by reporters outside the courthouse in Nam Van whether he would take the possible impact on whether he can resume his legislative duties into consideration when deciding whether to file an appeal, Sou said that he “would consider the matter comprehensively”.

If neither the prosecution nor the defence decide to appeal within 20 working days following yesterday’s court ruling, the court would inform the legislature about its judgment so that Sou could resume his legislative duties.

During a plenary session on December 4 last year, Sou was suspended from the Legislative Assembly (AL), when 28 of the 33 members of the legislature voted for his suspension so that he could stand trial for alleged aggravated disobedience.

It is the first suspension of a lawmaker since the establishment of the Macau Special Administrative Region (MSAR) in December 1999.
The legislature said in a statement on November 13 last year that the Court of First Instance had requested the legislature make a decision on whether Sou was to be suspended as a lawmaker so that he could stand trial for his alleged offence.

Prosecution of offences allegedly committed by a lawmaker that are punishable by less than three years must be authorised by the legislature.

The May 2016 demonstration against the controversial donation decision was organised by the non-establishment New Macau Association (NMA) in conjunction with members from a number of small trade unions. The protesters started their protest march from Vasco da Gama Garden. The demonstration was initially slated to end outside the Legislative Assembly (AL) building, as had been agreed with the police. However, the protest eventually ended at the nearby Nam Van Lake Nautical Centre as decided by Chiang and Sou – the then NMA president and board member respectively.

Subsequently, Sou and Chiang, along with a few dozen other protestors walked towards Penha Hill, with the aim of submitting petitions against the government’s donation decision to Chui’s official residence. Eventually they threw their petitions – folded as paper aeroplanes – at Chui’s official residence before leaving the area. During their gathering on Penha Hill, police officers repeatedly told them to leave the area.

Meanwhile, when announcing the two sentences yesterday, the judge also said that her court had meanwhile discovered that several fellow protestors, including NMA member Kam Sut Leng, who is now the association’s president, may have committed the same crime – illegal assembly and demonstration – as Sou and Chiang. She said that her court therefore will transfer the file on the two defendants’ case to the Public Prosecution Office (MP) for follow-up.

Sou revealed during the first hearing of his and Chiang’s trial on May 14 that he may face another four aggravated disobedience charges and that they were still being investigated by the police.

Suspended lawmaker Sulu Sou Ka Hou (left) speaks to reporters last night after yesterday’s announcement of the Court of First Instance’s (TJB) ruling, as his fellow non-establishment activist Scott Chiang Meng Hin looks on, outside the courthouse in Nam Van. Both were found guilty of illegal assembly and demonstration. Photo: Tony Wong


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    polictical issue

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    political action