03 July 2019

Rule of law centre stage in HK

Despite government suspending anti-extradition bill the Law Society of Hong Kong is forced to issue statement on rule of law as protestors riot.

The Law Society of Hong Kong has issued a strong condemnation of the violent siege of the Legislative Council building on 1 July 2019 by some protesters who attacked the police and vandalized public property. Protesters are still protesting the 2019 Hong Kong anti-extradition bill, which would have allowed extradition to China, despite the bill being suspended.

Law Society statement

The Law Society says that “while the rights to freedom of speech, assembly, procession and demonstration are firmly enshrined in Article 27 of the Basic Law, open defiance of the law by those protesters who broke into the Legislative Council building by force, inflicted bodily harm on others and caused serious criminal damage to the building, is to be deplored as an affront to the Rule of Law.” The society explained, “There is a line separating the lawful exercise of constitutional rights, as evidenced by recent peaceful demonstrations, from unlawful activity, which is and should be subject to sanctions and constraints. Where the line has been crossed, the police should take appropriate action to prevent criminal violence, secure observance of the law and uphold order for the protection of life and property.” The Law Society says it encourages the Government and all members of the public to respect others, work together, restore trust and confidence and move forward. Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam said the unprecedented trashing of the city’s Legislative Council (LegCo) by protesters was shocking and saddening. Speaking to the media, she said “This is something that we should seriously condemn because nothing is more important than the rule of law in Hong Kong.”

Bill suspended

Protesters broke into and trashed the LegCo building on Monday night, on the 22nd anniversary of the British handover, escalating tensions in a city wracked by weeks of protests over a controversial extradition Bill. Clashes spilled over into the streets nearby. The protesters put forward five demands to Mrs Lam’s administration: to withdraw the proposed Bill fully, to rescind characterisation of the June 12 protest  as a “riot”, to drop all charges against anti-extradition protesters, to set up an independent investigation committee to look into abuses of power by the police, and, to implement universal suffrage of the executive and legislature by 2020. Mrs Lam said the government had already responded positively to a key demand of the protesters, saying that, on June 15, she had announced that the Bill would be suspended. She also said that she had repeatedly explained that by suspending the Bill with no timetable or plan to resume the debate in LegCo, it would either just expire or it would expire in June 2020 when the current LegCo term ends.

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