Regrettable. That was Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s response to critics of the six-year jail term imposed on localist leader Edward Leung Tin-kei for rioting.

Critics generally branded the punishment on Leung, pictured, handed out by the High Court on Monday as political persecution.

Lam said people mouthing these beliefs are harming the rule of law and destroying the judicial system.

People can express their own views, she said. “But they absolutely should not criticize the court as embarking on political persecution just because they have their own personal opinion or they are dissatisfied with the sentence.”

Lam said as the chief executive and a mother of two sons, she would like to see young people have aspirations and pursue justice, and speak up when they see unfairness in society.

But she said such behavior needed to be legal and abide by the law.

Lam also referred to views that the riot was due to the government’s failure to respond positively to social dissatisfaction that forced young people to resort to violence.

She hopes people making such comments will think deeply.

“At any time, any government has a deficiency, but this is not an excuse to violate the law, to attack police and to create social disorder,” Lam said.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Progressive Lawyers Group, Chris Ng Chung-luen, questioned the High Court’s refusal to take personal background as a mitigating factor. Speaking on a radio program, he said the court has the responsibility to rehabilitate people, meaning it should consider basic mitigating factors.

He said in general criminal cases, the court usually would consider basic mitigating factors such as the defendant’s age at the time of the crime and his or her background, and motives for committing the crime, before determining the sentence.

Ng said in Leung’s case, it was not ideal for the court not to consider those basic mitigating factors.

Executive Council member Ronny Tong Ka-wah slammed former governor Chris Patten’s criticism of the verdict, saying it was the colonial government which made the Public Order Ordinance.

After Leung’s sentence was announced on Monday, Patten said the ordinance contained “vague definitions in the legislation.” He said the law was open to abuse, and did not conform with United Nations human rights standards.

But Tong decried Patten’s criticism as biased, with no grounds to say people were using the ordinance to achieve political aims.

After spending his first two nights in a cell at the Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre, Leung is expected to be transferred to the Shek Pik Prison on Lantau Island today.

Shek Pik is a maximum security institution where serial killer Lam Kor-wan is serving his life sentence.

Like other inmates, Leung will have a one-hour break every day for him to take a walk. He also has the right to study, a source said.

Article originally appeared in The Standard on 13 June 2018