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Tuesday, Apr 13, 2021

Legal aid boss defends funding for protesters

Legal aid boss defends funding for protesters

The Legal Aid Department will approve aid for defendants whether they are "blue" or "yellow," officials told Eastweek magazine.
Legal Aid Services Council chairman William Leung Wing-cheung rejected accusations the department had wasted public funds on helping protesters and worked against the government. He said the department "would no longer be the scapegoat."

"In criminal cases, as long as an applicant passes the asset test, they can receive aid regardless of race and political stance," he said.

"People facing prosecution and trials are just suspects, and we will help them regardless of whether they are accused of rioting or breaching the national security law."

Leung also refuted claims the department was acting against the government by approving judicial review applications, stressing it would consider whether an application is worth the court's time.

"The cases actually merit the court's time and society will follow the court's decision, which is a great help to the smooth functioning of society."

Director of Legal Aid Thomas Edward Kwong said he had been accused of encouraging human smuggling when handling legal aid applications for right-of-abode cases.

"We are not encouraging people to smuggle. Instead, we need the court of final appeal to decide which group has the right to stay," Kwong said. "After the court ruling, the number of people who were smuggled in fell by a lot, which is beneficial to society. The government's legal resources spent in these cases were well worth the cost," he added.

He also said it was a "misconception" that judicial review cases with legal aid surged in recent years.

According to department statistics, 98.5 percent of legal aid applications involved divorces, workers' compensation, traffic accidents and labor disputes. Judicial reviews only accounted for 1.5 percent.
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