The December 2017 suspension of democrat lawmaker Sulu Sou from the Legislative Assembly sent legal shockwaves ringing throughout 2018, with both Sou and the constituent parts of the government accusing one another of illegalities.
The stakes were high. Sou, now ostracized from the legislature and targeted by the establishment, was called to defend himself against charges of aggravated disobedience during a 2016 protest – a crime punishable with a prison sentence of up to two years. Spending any more than 30 days in prison would have entailed possible permanent disqualification from the Legislative Assembly.
Highlighting serious irregularities in the procedure leading to his suspension, Sou called on the courts to deliberate. In January, a nervous Legislative Assembly entertained an “immunity resolution” that would bar “political acts” from being scrutinized by judicial authorities, but it was quickly retracted following a critical public reception.
The months that followed turned into a war of attrition with both Sou and the authorities filing, or threatening to file, separate lawsuits and appeals. Few of the threats materialized.
Macau’s Court of First Instance ultimately found the democrat lawmaker and co-activist Scott Chiang guilty of the crime of unlawful assembly and sentenced them to 120-day fines each. After a month-long standoff with the public prosecutions authority, Sou and Chiang opted to file a last-minute ‘defensive’ appeal to then retract it upon hearing that the authority was not seeking a harsher sentence.
Despite narrowly evading permanent expulsion, Sou is not yet in the clear. Police authorities and the lawmaker have both confirmed that there are as many as half a dozen other pending cases, any one of which could hand this ‘repeat offender’ a prison sentence of more than 30 days.