While the application for leave to appeal to the Court of Final Appeal is pending, Long Hair last night spent his first of 28 nights in a jail cell. It is difficult to comprehend sometimes and also sad that someone should be locked up, essentially, for expressing their views. Justice Pang’s reasoning remains unknown as the judgment has so far not been published. This part is equally difficult to comprehend, i.e. that someone should have their liberty taken away without having been given a chance to see the judge’s reasoning. This reminds of the case of Uli Hoeness, the former Bayern Munich football player, manager and president, who was recently convicted of tax fraud and given a jail sentence. I am not intimately familiar with the German legal system but it did notice that he was allowed to remain free until the judge’s reasoning was published, thus giving him a chance to read it and decided whether or not to appeal. That seems a much fairer system. Sure, even in Hong Kong, it is still possible to appeal once the full judgment is published in a few weeks time, but by that point, the affected person has already spent considerable time in jail, deprived of his or her liberty.
Another point, which may seem trivial but has a lot of symbolic relevance in Long Hair’s case, is that his hair was cut by prison officers last night. Again, how can this sort of interference with a person’s body be justified, especially before a possible appeal is heard and before the full judgment is published. What if his conviction is overturned? What if his sentence is reduced? This might provide belated vindication but it certainly wouldn’t help Long Hair regrow his trademark hair any quicker. In the United States, the courts seem to be trending against forced haircuts.
In any case, this whole saga is likely to backfire for the government. In anything, Long Hair’s short hair will provide everyone with an illustrative reminder of this whole saga and its many unanswered questions: What was the judge’s reasoning? Why was only Long Hair sent to jail when there were apparently dozens or so protestors? How have similar cases been treated by the prosecution? Were they prosecuted?