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Saturday, April 22, 2017, 00:13

Rule of law ‘outweighs political expediency’

By Luis Liu

HONG KONG - No political ideals, no matter how justifiable, should be pursued at the cost of the rule of law – a founding principle and core value of Hong Kong – legal professionals told a forum on the development of law and politics in Hong Kong during the past 20 years.

They were responding to the idea raised by some from the “pan-democratic” camp to give amnesty to protesters involved in the illegal “Occupy Central” movement in 2014.

Speaking at the China-Australia Legal Exchange Foundation’s (CALEF) forum, Senior Counsel Alan Hoo Hong-ching voiced concern of the paradox behind the “pan-democrats’” theory.

People from nearly the entire political spectrum believe the rule of law is fundamental. However, there are still people calling for amnesty when they find court orders fail to satisfy their demands, Hoo said.

Such a mentality is not the rule of law, Hoo stressed, adding judicial independence means the rule of law without interference of all political factors.

He stressed that no political ideals, no matter how justifiable, should be pursued at the cost of the rule of law.

His view was shared by Barrister Lawrence Ma Yan-kwok. Ma believed Hong Kong people want “rule of law instead of rule of politics”.

Noting that the “pan-democrats” raised the idea of amnesty for good purpose – to settle disputes and resume social harmony, Ma, who is also chairman of the CALEF, cautioned that such a move would send a dangerous message to society, where breaking laws for certain reasons can be justified.

“Any attempt to reconcile the society cannot cross the line of the rule of law,” Ma cautioned.

He was also echoed by law professor at the School of Law, City University of Hong Kong, Gu Minkang. Previously committed crimes must be punished according to the law, Gu urged, otherwise the city will lose its most solid foundation.

Earlier this week Democratic Party Chairman Wu Chi-wai suggested Chief Executive-designate Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor should grant amnesty to the organizers and protesters of the 79-day illegal occupation in 2014.

In return, Wu believed the seven police officers now serving prison terms for assaulting a protester and retired police superintendent Franklin Chu King-wai, who allegedly beat a protester during the occupation, could be also granted amnesty for the purpose of what Wu called a “big reconciliation”.

Meanwhile, as the city is facing escalating threats from separatists in recent years, the legal professionals also called on Lam to set up a special task force and start to study details onthe legislation of the long-delayed national security law.

They said there is no excuse for the new government to avoid touching Article 23 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong's constitutional document, 20 years after the city’s reunification with the nation.

The need for a specific national security law has become increasingly urgent after rounds of social events that have posed a threat to national security. This includes the violent Mong Kok riot, the activities by local pro-independence groups and the oath-taking stunt that came under the global spotlight last year, Hoo said.

Nearly all countries and territories in the world have their own national security laws and Hong Kong is no exception, even considering its unique status, Hoo said.

“Quebec and other provinces (in Canada) use different law systems, however, they share the same national security law,” Hoo cited Canada, adding it can be considered a reference of national security under “One Country, Two Systems”.

The absence of a national security law created an ambiguous basis for the Department of Justice to react to relevant cases, Hoo said. This had partly resulted in the current situation that separatist political organizations have been spreading their messages, even in the city’s schools, without bearing legal responsibility, Hoo said.

He urged the government to set up a special working group on the issue.

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