Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Let law take its course in Hong Kong

By Qiao Xinsheng (China Daily) Updated: 2014-10-29 07:51

The cancellation of a "square voting" planned by the "Occupy Central" organizers to take place on Sunday and Monday indicates that the protestors have lost the popularity among Hong Kong residents. Given the huge inconvenience and disturbance the campaign has caused in Hong Kong, and the huge economic loss it has inflicted on the city's economy, an overwhelming majority of the residents now demand the restoration of the rule of law.

The Hong Kong Bar Association published a statement on the rule of law and civil disobedience on its official website on Oct 8, saying that "many residents have been engaged in prolonged and widespread occupation of public places and roads, resulting in the obstruction of traffic" which is "potentially unlawful". The statement also says: "Civil disobedience is a philosophical, not a legal principle, and participants deliberately break a law to bring attention to, and as a protest against, the injustice of a law or government action."

The HKBA, however, believes civil disobedience cannot be used to defend a criminal act. Also, if a participant is prosecuted for an offense committed in the course of civil disobedience and if the offense can be proved, his/her motive for committing the offense, however noble or honorable, is no justification for defense against the criminal charge, nor is his/her trial an occasion for a court to adjudicate his/her political cause.

With a statement that elaborates the basic principles of Hong Kong's and even British and US legal systems, the HKBA has reminded its members that, while handling such cases they should not use political excuses as legal excuses to defend offenders.

For further elaborations, the HKBA has cited a ruling made by the British Columbia Supreme Court directed against people engaged in acts of civil disobedience: " ... by seeking to change the law by deliberately disobeying it, you threaten the continued existence of the very instrument, indeed the only instrument through which you may eventually achieve the end you seek. Such conduct is not only illegal, it is completely self-defeating."

The HKBA has also cited a well-known case of R v Jones (Margaret) 2007, which says: "It is the mark of a civilized community that it can accommodate protests and demonstration of this kind. But there are conventions which are generally accepted by the law-breakers on one side and the law-enforcers on the other. The protesters behave with a sense of proportion and do not cause excessive damage or inconvenience. And they vouch the sincerity of their beliefs by accepting the penalties imposed by the law".

Previous Page 1 2 Next Page

Most Viewed Today's Top News