An estimated 3,000 legal professionals took the streets of Hong Kong on Wednesday, demanding that the government allow the growing protest movement to express itself freely without facing unjust judicial activity or police brutality.
The march was the second of its kind since the current pro-democracy protests began and the continuation of a wave of protests that have not stopped since the weekend. Hong Kong residents began to take the streets peacefully against the Communist Party of China in June, urging the Hong Kong Legislative Council (LegCo) to fully withdraw a bill that would have made the enforcement of communist laws viable on Hong Kong soil.
Hong Kong police and pro-China thugs have made the protests increasingly violent in the past two weeks, attacking marchers with tear gas and, in the latter’s case, beating them with metal rods. Protesters in one neighborhood this weekend faced an angry driver ramming his car through a makeshift barricade into people standing on the other side.
The Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) reported Wednesday that the thousands of legal professionals marched silently to the offices of Hong Kong’s Department of Justice, demanding “an end to political prosecutions, for the Department of Justice to retain its independence and for the government to form an independent commission of inquiry” on protest response. The requests parallel those of the broader Hong Kong protest movement, which has released a five-point list of demands: an independent inquiry on police violence, freedom for political prisoners, direct election of lawmakers, a full withdrawal of the offending LegCo bill, and a government statement rescinding the labeling of a June 12 protest as a “riot.”
The bill that began the current wave of protests in June would have allowed China to extradite anyone present in Hong Kong if accused of violating Communist Party laws, regardless of their residency status in the city. LegCo tabled the bill, removing it from debate in a manner that allows any lawmaker to revive it at will. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said in a recent speech that the bill was “dead,” but protesters want a full withdrawal that does not allow for its revival.
The lawyers marching on Wednesday told the HKFP that the government of Hong Kong had failed to provide the acceptable amount of information on cases of protesters prosecuted for “rioting” and they had left largely untouched the issue of the pro-China thugs, many of which police confirmed were tied to triad criminal gangs.
“They were many cases of the police firing tear gas in highly populated residential areas, harming elderly people and children – that is very unacceptable to me,” a legal professional identified only as “Mr. Chan” told the HKFP.
Civic Party co-founder Audrey Eu told the outlet that Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng was “fast-tracking” rioting cases against pro-democracy protesters while not doing enough against the violent thug mobs.
“If she is fast-tracking the charge of rioting, you would expect her to have fast-tracked also the charges of these attacks in Yuen Long on July 21. The very fact that she failed to do so cannot give you any other conclusion than that there is bias and there is political motive,” Eu said.
Yuen Long is a suburb within the Hong Kong region outside of the main city center. Following a peaceful protest there three weeks ago, a mob of armed people dressed in white and wearing surgical masks began to beat anyone found wearing black, the color of the protests, in and around the Yuen Long Mass Transit Rail (MTR) platform. Protesters had begun to make their way to the MTR station to get home from the protest. Police did not answer emergency calls for more than 40 minutes, allowing the thugs to corner and beat dozens of protesters. Authorities confirmed that 45 people were hospitalized following the attack.
Yuen Long is also where a man rammed his car into protesters this weekend.
A similar mob attacked peaceful protesters with sticks in North Point, within the city of Hong Kong, this weekend.
Police have arrested 12 of the estimated 150 people in the Yuen Long mob and confirmed protesters’ accusations that they were members of triads, or organized criminal gangs.
The Hong Kong Progressive Lawyers’ Group, formed in 2015 in the aftermath of the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement protests, has also accused the Hong Kong government of wielding the law as a weapon against protesters.
“The concern that the legal community has is whether the prosecutions in the Department of Justice are being conducted fairly because pretty alarmingly there are signs that political considerations are at play,” attorney Wilson Leung of the Progressive Lawyers’ Group told Euronews this week.
“There has been an open letter from anonymous prosecutors in the department saying that the head of the department is using political considerations. There is also heavy widespread use of colonial-era rioting charges; these are very draconian, and the highest penalty of ten years imprisonment can be used,” he said. “Contrast that with the lighter treatment of the suspected gangsters involved in the attack (on pro-democracy protesters) in Yuen Long three weeks ago: 19 people were arrested, they were not formally charged and the offense they were charged with was unlawful assembly.”