Court of Final Appeal overturns conviction of RTHK journalist Bao Choy Yuk-ling

Bao Choy Yuk-ling

5th June 2023 – (Hong Kong) Bao Choy Yuk-ling, a female producer at Radio Television Hong Kong‘s documentary program “Hong Kong Connection,” was accused of making false statements when she applied to the Transport Department for license plate information during the production of a news report in 2020. After a trial, she was convicted of two counts of “knowingly making a false statement in an application for a certificate under the Road Traffic Ordinance” and fined HK$6,000. Choy appealed her conviction but was rejected by the Court of Appeal. She then appealed to the Court of Final Appeal, which heard her case in a hearing last month and announced its decision today, overturning her conviction and sentence.

Choy argued that the legal issue that needed to be clarified by the Court of Final Appeal was whether the Transport Department Commissioner had the power to refuse to issue a vehicle registration details certificate to an applicant who was not “related to matters concerning traffic and transport”. If the Transport Department had the power to refuse, how should “matters concerning traffic and transport” be interpreted, and whether they included news investigations related to or involving the use of vehicles on the road.

During the hearing, Choy’s legal team argued that the Commissioner had no authority to refuse to issue the certificate unless there were special circumstances, such as the Commissioner discovering that the application was related to an illegal purpose. Therefore, the Commissioner should not have rejected Choy’s application. Choy’s legal team also argued that she filled in “other matters concerning traffic and transport” because she needed to investigate whether the vehicle in question had been used to transport weapons for criminal purposes, which was related to “transport and traffic matters.” They emphasized that Choy had no other choice but to fill in that option and did not make a false statement. However, the prosecution argued that the news investigation was not related to traffic matters.

The Court of Final Appeal, in its judgment, found that the Transport Department Commissioner did not have the power to refuse to issue the certificate based on the applicant’s identity, and that the Commissioner‘s refusal was unlawful. The court also held that the term “matters concerning traffic and transport” included traffic-related news investigations, and that Choy’s statement was not false. Therefore, the court allowed Choy’s appeal and acquitted her of the charges.