The Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal quashed the conviction of journalist Choi Yuk-ling on Monday regarding her investigation into the 2019 Yuen Long attack. The court unanimously quashed Choi’s conviction by adopting a more liberal approach, which took into account Choi’s journalistic background. The court contended that the liberal approach is preferable to protect the freedom of press. Another ground for quashing the conviction was that the lower courts had drawn inferences that caused substantial and grave injustices to Choi.
The prosecution charged Choi with two counts of knowingly making a false statement for the purpose of obtaining a certificate under the local traffic laws. In Hong Kong, members of the public can apply to the Commissioner for Transport to obtain a certificate of the particulars. The application process requires applicants to declare their purposes for obtaining certificates. With limited choices on the drop down menu, Choi declared that she obtained the certificate “for traffic and transport-related matters.” The prosecution argued, however, that Choi breached the law because a journalistic investigation was not included in her reasoning for obtaining the certificate. The lower courts accepted this argument and found Choi guilty.
The Court of Final Appeal held that the construction of the quoted term should include journalism in good faith. Adopting a more lenient approach can give effect to the freedom of press, as provided in the Hong Kong Basic Law and the Bill of Rights. The court also ruled that the terms “for traffic and transport-related matters” is unclear and ambiguous. The court also said that inferring that Choi had knowledge of the falsity in her declaration has caused substantial and grave injustice in support of quashing Choi’s conviction.
The reason Choi applied for the certificate was to further her investigation for a television documentary, “Hong Kong Connection, 7 21 Who Owns the Truth,” which was released in 2021. The documentary covers the violence that happened in Yuen Long in 2019 during an anti-extradition law amendment bill movement. In the case involving the events, the defendants told the court that the attack intended to target protesters.