President Of Justice Labs Hong Kong Writes Open Letter To UK & US Consuls Re Students Who May Be Prosecuted For DemocracyProtest

Here’s the letter


Dear Mr. Hart and Ms. Wilson,

I am ?addressing this open letter to you in your respective capacities as U.S. and British Consuls? ?General to Hong Kong. I respectfully request that you and your governments consider implementing expedited visa review procedures by which ?Hong Kong residents ?who may be arrested or convicted in connection with Occupy Central ?protests ?can be given a speedy opportunity to demonstrate that they are not dangers for travel and immigration purposes and should be allowed to enter the U.S and Britain to pursue their education and career plans.

I flag this as a potential issue because, as you know, a criminal record not only complicates the lives of Hong Kong residents in Hong Kong. It imposes additional penalties on them if they wish to travel abroad. A Hong Kong resident with an arrest record, even if the arrest does not result in a conviction, must always declare the arrest in visa applications to the U.S.?, ?which will greatly delay visa approvals. The U.S. Embassy in London?, for example?, ?warns that people with arrest records face a lengthy review process of up to 6 months or longer to determine if the person is a danger and should be barred from the U.S. In cases where the arrest results in a conviction, the individual may be permanently ineligible to receive a U.S. visa and ?will need to obtain a special waiver in order to travel?. ? British laws also impose penalties. If a Hong Kong resident is convicted of an offense, however unfairly, and spends any time in jail, he will be barred from entering the UK for 5 years, absent exceptional circumstances.? ?These limitations on travel and the possibility of being barred from entry will be a particularly heavy blow for Hong Kong ?students? who want to study in the U.S. or Britain.

I understand that visa officers have discretion to determine whether a particular offense reflects moral turpitude and should be the basis of barring a person from entering the country. Unfortunately, the presence of discretion does not answer two key problems. A criminal record will ?greatly ?delay a person’s visa application. In addition, an arrested or convicted person? has virtually no control? over the offense with which he is charged. Similar ?conduct? can be charged as different crimes. For example?,? actions that might be charged as obstructing traffic could also be charged as ?endangering the public safety. The former would not be considered an offense of moral turpitude whereas the latter might very well. The uncertainly surrounding how a person’s arrest or conviction might be construed by a visa officer can deter people f?rom ?even applying for a visa. ?Uncertainty is a powerful deterrent. I ??saw this first hand when I worked in Beijing. Many students I met ?told me they were deterred from traveling to the U.S. because they had heard (quite erroneously as it turned out), that the ?Embassy? tended to deny visas to Chinese students.? ?They didn’t even ?apply?

I am concerned that the ?prospect of a prolonged visa review process and the uncertainty of the outcome might ?discourage? large numbers of Hong Kong residents from applying for visas to study? in? or travel to the U.S. and Britain.

In effect, U.S. and British visa laws ?might ?play into the hands of ?parties that want to discourage protests.

Fortunately, ?I believe ?there is a relatively simple solution.? Your offices can implement procedures by which persons arrested in connection with Occupy Central protests will have their cases subjected to expedited review so that they can clear their records and prove exceptional circumstances for travel and immigration purposes. In this way ?Hong Kong residents? will not be faced with months of uncertainly about the status of their travel and education plans.

??The purpose of expedited review is not to take sides in any political debates. It’s sole purpose is to reduce the unintended consequences of U.S and British visa laws on? peaceful protesters. Indeed, ?such a procedure will absolve Britain? ?and the U.S. of charges that they are ?unwittingly ?allowing their laws to be used? to? advantage one side and ?to ?penalize the other.


Robert Edward Precht
President, Justice Labs Limited
Suite 1104, Crawford House, 70 Queens Road Central, Hong Kong
?+852 5369 0659?