Defense lawyer in library case questions rights to supervise government

The defense lawyer in the new Central Library design’s alleged leakage case has questioned whether the government tolerates criticism.

A staff member at Cultural Affairs Bureau (IC) has been sued by the government for allegedly leaking internal confidential information about the new Central Library to the public. Charges of violating confidentiality and violating legal privilege held by entities that act for public authorities were pressed against the defendant, surnamed Lou.

The matter started when local media outlet All About Macau published an Article to the Editor raising questions about the design of the new Central Library. It was revealed on Mar. 8, 2021 that Dutch architecture firm Mecanoo had won the tender for the design of the new library. Later, the IC reported the matter to the local police, accusing a staff member of leaking confidential information.

The court trial submitted closing statements last Friday.

Defense lawyer Chan Wa Keong argued that the government does not allow constructive criticism of its work. The prosecutor commented that the article constituted vicious criticism against the government, but Chan argued that the general public’s perspective should be taken into account.

He said that when he was in mainland China for official visits, constructive criticism was accepted by mainland officials because they are key to serving the people well. He suggested the government reconsider the reason behind the article, because he interpreted the aim to be supporting the government move forward.

Chan raised the fact that computer clocks can be adjusted, making it difficult to confirm the actual time the article was written and delivered to the media. He said the prosecutor should not accuse his client based on “uncertain times.”

He also said that leaking the information would be detrimental to his client, an intermediately senior civil servant, and so it was unlikely that he would have done it.

The prosecutor, meanwhile, said that the article’s use of words “copycat” and “fake antiques” were violations against the government because they were untrue. In support of this claim, the prosecutor cited a witness as saying that the winning design did not copy any other design.

The original article questioned the originality of the winning design and asked: “Why is the Mecanoo design so similar to Shenzhen Longhua Art Museum and Library, and Shenzhen Futian Civic Cultural Center? Why does [the library] exude a feeling of alleged plagiarism?” The subtitle of this section went: “plagiarized architecture?”

Lawmaker and former journalist Ron Lam’s provided written testimony prior to the closing statement session. Lam pointed out that the information cited in the article was publicly-accessible information released by the government. Judged by his experience, he thought that the article was the result of publicized data collected and analyzed by a person with architecture or design knowledge or background.

In consideration of the many doubts underlying the case, the lawyer appealed to the court to find his client not guilty, based on the principle of in dubio pro reo (when in doubt, rule for the accused).

Categories Macau