Date
17 November 2017
Legal scholar Albert Chen says it is premature to conclude that the Occupy protests are causing irreversible damage to Hong Kong's rule of law. Photo: HKEJ
Legal scholar Albert Chen says it is premature to conclude that the Occupy protests are causing irreversible damage to Hong Kong's rule of law. Photo: HKEJ

No proof Occupy denting rule of law, for now: Albert Chen

There is not enough evidence to reach a conclusion that the Occupy movement is causing irreversible harm to the rule of law in Hong Kong, said Albert Chen Hung-yee, a legal scholar and Basic Law committee member.

The theory behind the campaign could be justified by civil disobedience movements seen in the Western world, but it would be difficult to say if moral lapses won’t occur if the movement drags on, Chen said, according to Ming Pao Daily.

The comments came after some groups had criticized pro-democracy protesters for failing to obey temporary injunctions issued by the High Court to clear some streets.

Civil disobedience is an open and non-violent illegal action, Chen said, citing American political philosopher John Rawls. But other elements should also be considered in any action, including what changes the action can bring about and also the potential damage.

The initial aim of movement convenor Benny Tai was to raise the awareness of citizens and media, as well as the world, about the issues facing Hong Kong. But moral questions will arise if the movement affects other people’s lives, Chen said.

Some people may be thinking that they don’t have to obey the temporary injunctions in the belief that what they are doing is fight injustice. However, this could harm the rule of law in the city if things go beyond a point.

So far, there is no concrete evidence to suggest that the movement is causing irreversible harm to the rule of law, Chen said. As for the future, it will depend on whether society can ultimately reach a consensus, he said.

The report also cited Johannes Chan from the Faculty of Law at the University of Hong Kong as saying that the movement will not affect how citizens view the rule of law in Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong Bar Association, meanwhile, on Tuesday expressed concern about people not obeying the temporary court injunctions, a separate report said.

This came after Tai said the injunctions are only a civil issue and that there is no danger to rule of law even if people are not obeying the court orders. The protesters are willing to take responsibility for their actions, he said.

The Bar Association said this kind of comments will mislead the public and harm the rule of law in Hong Kong.

Everyone should obey the orders until the court withdraws the injunctions, the association said. It added that discontent with the electoral framework proposed by Beijing doesn’t mean that citizens can disobey the court orders and act radically.

The association reiterated it does not denounce the democracy movement, but said that it is not right to use “political solution” as an excuse to disobey the law. The rule of law should be sacrosanct and not broken under any circumstances, it added.

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