Rule of law ‘outweighs political expediency’
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.
Lawrence Ma Yan-kwok, barrister and chairman of the ChinaAustralia Legal Exchange Foundation
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 Yuetngor 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 on the legislation of the longdelayed 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.