Date
23 April 2019
In its inaugural report, the Progressive Lawyers Group said the judicial environment in the city changed last year in a way that continuously put pressure on the implementation of the rule of law. Photo: RTHK
In its inaugural report, the Progressive Lawyers Group said the judicial environment in the city changed last year in a way that continuously put pressure on the implementation of the rule of law. Photo: RTHK

Lawyers group voices concern over threats to rule of law

A lawyers group has expressed concern over enormous threats to the rule of law in Hong Kong, citing multiple incidents last year as examples.

In the Hong Kong Rule of Law Report 2018, its inaugural report, the Progressive Lawyers Group said the judicial environment in the city changed last year in a way that continuously put pressure on the implementation of the rule of law, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

It said the disqualification of candidates in elections, the co-location arrangement for the Express Rail Link, and the banning of the Hong Kong National Party (HKNP), among other highly controversial incidents, posed risks to what is considered as one of the city’s core values.

More developments emerged in the first few months of this year, including the plan to amend the extradition law, legislation of the national anthem law, and rumors about the enactment of Article 23 of the Basic Law, all of which suggest that the progress of the rule of law in Hong Kong will face more hindrances, according to the report, which contains eight chapters and offers nearly 60 recommendations.

The group was formed in January 2015 by Hong Kong lawyers and law students to promote and defend the rule of law, democracy, human rights, freedoms and justice in the city.

Craig Choy Ki, one of the conveners of the lawyers group, said government officials have often misused the term “rule of law” in recent years, thereby muddling society’s understanding of the spirit of the rule of law.

Rule of law is not just about abiding by the law but also covers equality, justice and other values, Choy stressed, adding that it is a duty that every member of the community should defend.

The barrister noted that the government has not come up with a plan to restart political reform since the end of the 2014 Occupy Movement, which he said is a breach of its constitutional duty.

Barrister Billy Li On-yin, another convener of the group, singled out the UGL case, in which former chief executive Leung Chun-ying had been accused of failing to declare confidential payments he received from Australian engineering firm UGL and to pay the corresponding taxes.

The Department of Justice last year decided not to press charges against Leung in connection with the case.

Li slammed the government not reviewing the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance as it had promised, and urged the justice department to reconsider the possibility of initiating prosecution.

He also called Beijing a big threat to Hong Kong’s rule of law, citing the central government’s demand for a report on the banning of the HKNP from Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

Barrister Chris Ng Chung-luen, another convener of the group, said it is preparing the 2019 version of the report to strengthen public awareness of the rule of law, as it continues to monitor the state of the rule of law in the city.

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TL/JC/CG

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