Rule of law ‘out­weighs po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­di­ency’

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - TOP NEWS - By LUIS LIU in Hong Kong luis­liu@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

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.

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