Reuters in a report on Tuesday cited two Chinese sources as saying that the arrests of 53 democracy advocates in Hong Kong on Jan. 6 were part of an intensifying drive coordinated by Beijing to stifle any challenge to Chinese rule in the territory and that more actions were likely, including targeting district councilors.
It did not take long for the prediction to come true, as Hong Kong police on Thursday arrested 11 people suspected of helping the 12 people who tried to flee to Taiwan by sea in August last year.
The 11 arrested under the National Security Law included District Councilor Daniel Wong Kwok-tung (黃國桐), a lawyer who provided legal assistance to hundreds of people arrested during the 2019 protests.
On the same day, the Hong Kong Broadband Network said that to comply with the national security legislation, it had blocked a pro-democracy Web site, confirming media reports that police had, without going through the court system, ordered telecoms to restrict access to HKChronicles.
However, another disturbing development that appeared to receive little attention — at least outside of the territory or the UK — was the announcement that the Hong Kong government hired a well-known Queen’s Counsel barrister, David Perry, to represent the prosecution in the trial of nine of the most prominent of those 53 people arrested.
The nine — who include tycoon Jimmy Lai (黎智英), Hong Kong Democracy Party founder Martin Lee (李柱銘), Labor Party vice chairman and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions general secretary Lee Cheuk-yan (李卓人), and former legislators Albert Ho (何俊仁) and “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung (梁國雄) — are scheduled to go on trial on Feb. 16 for disregarding police orders by turning an approved assembly inside Victoria Park on Aug. 18, 2019, into a march that was not permitted.
The territory’s Court of First Instance on Tuesday granted the Hong Kong Department of Justice’s application to bring Perry over from the UK to handle the case, due to its complexity and its “real and significant impact on the exercise of the freedom of assembly in the future.”
Perry would reportedly advise on how the activists broke Hong Kong’s freedom of assembly laws.
A basic tenet of the legal profession in democratic nations that practice the rule of law is that justice must be available to all — everyone deserves a lawyer — although that is largely interpreted to mean the defendants, not the prosecutors or the government.
The request for Perry’s help clearly appears to be an attempt to whitewash Beijing’s persecution of democracy advocates, for surely there are well-trained barristers in the justice department who could handle the case, such as those who last month got Joshua Wong (黃之鋒), Agnes Chow (周庭) and Ivan Lam (林朗彥) sent to jail, on charges of organizing and inciting an unlawful assembly in June 2019.
Perry, a former British Treasury counsel, has worked on an ad hoc basis before for high-profile criminal cases in Hong Kong, as well as the Bahamas and elsewhere, but the Hong Kong that he acted on behalf of in the past is not the Hong Kong of today.
While the territory’s prosecutors have little choice, if they want to keep their jobs, but to prosecute cases under the travesty that is the National Security Law, it is a whole different ethical question for outsiders when they are asked to fly in to do what amounts to a hit job.
It is ironic, given that Beijing and its minions have long railed against the employment of judges from the UK, Canada and Australia on Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal, that the government would find it necessary to bring in a British barrister to prosecute its case.
Sadly, irony is something that is lost on the Chinese Communist Party, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) and, apparently, Perry.
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