Govt slams arson attacks at two court buildings

December 09, 2019 14:10
Fire is seen outside the High Court at around 6 pm on Sunday. Photo: City Broadcasting Channel of CityU/Facebook

The government denounced what it termed as arson attacks outside the premises of two high-level courts on Sunday, warning that it will not tolerate violent acts that undermine the rule of law.

“The arsons outside the Court of Final Appeal and High Court Building today (December 8) not only disrupted social peace, but also undermined Hong Kong’s reputation as a city governed by the rule of law,” the Department of Justice said on Sunday.

“The government will not condone any acts of sabotage against the Judiciary or damage to the rule of law,” it said in a statement issued late in the night.

Reminding citizens that arson is a "serious offence" and the maximum penalty upon conviction is life imprisonment, the department urged the public not to break the law.

The statement came after news that some people had set fires at the entrances to the High Court and the Court of Final Appeal on Sunday evening when hundreds of thousands of citizens took part in a rally to mark six months of the current protest movement.

Fires broke out as petrol bombs were thrown outside the two court buildings as the massive march organized by the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) was underway.

While the large-scale public event was peaceful in general, some of the protesters began to block roads and confront the police in the evening.

Sometime after 6 pm, the High Court building came under petrol bomb attack and the exterior walls of the building were spray-painted with graffiti.

Police said they first received a report from a security guard that a fire had been set outside the shutter gate of the High Court on the LG4 level – which connects the building to the nearby Pacific Place mall and surrounding office buildings, RTHK reported.

In addition to that the gate was left with burn marks after the fire was put out, the outer wall of the building was sprayed with graffiti including a message in Chinese that read: “the rule of law is dead”.

Following the incident, shattered glass and towels were seen strewn on the ground.

Then at around 8 pm, a fire was reported at an entrance of the Court of Final Appeal building. The attack left the wooden door and the wall near the door with burn marks.

Expressing deep regret after learning about the arson incidents, Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok Wing-hang, who represents the legal sector, said no one should, no matter what the motive, do things that can endanger courts or staff of the Judiciary.

Meanwhile, Kwok also criticized the government, accusing it of repeatedly playing with legal procedures, trying to settle political disputes in courts and conniving with police to hand out instant punishments without trial.

Melissa Kaye Pang, president of the Law Society of Hong Kong, said she cannot accept that some people hurled petrol bombs at courts and damaged the facilities just to vent their discontent.

Violent attacks will not help resolve the problems, she said, adding that such acts must immediately cease.

Speaking on a radio program on Monday morning, CHRF convener Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit said he doesn't see any reason why courts had been targeted on Sunday.

As the High Court had in November decreed that the anti-mask law was unconstitutional, the marchers had no reason to attack the court, he said.

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TL/JC/RC

A wooden door and the wall near the door of one of the entrances of the Court of Final Appeal building are seen charred after a fire was reported at around 8pm on Sunday. Photo: TVB News/screenshot