HK Bar Association urged to halt anti-China chairman’s tenure, not to ‘go down a road of no return’
Published: Apr 26, 2021 12:38 AM
Hong Kong File Photo: VCG

Hong Kong File Photo: VCG

The Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in Hong Kong urged the Hong Kong Bar Association to terminate the tenure of anti-China politician Paul Harris, chairman of the association, as the latter defended and glorified violence, and warned the association not to walk further down the path of politicization or it risked going down an "abyss."

In a strongly worded statement on Sunday, a spokesperson of the liaison office of the central government in Hong Kong stressed that the Hong Kong Bar Association is a professional group whose chairman should follow the principle of "patriots governing Hong Kong" and warned that if the association continues to be led by such a foreign political figure with no professional integrity, it would be stepping foot "on the road of no return." 

Harris recently spread rumors about the cases handled by a court in Hong Kong, making excuses for lawbreakers, smearing law enforcers and pressuring judiciary personnel, which sparked outrage in Hong Kong society especially within the legal sector in Hong Kong, a spokesperson of the liaison office of the central government in Hong Kong said on Sunday. 

Harris  who defended some anti-government figures including Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai claimed they were "protecting freedom" in Hong Kong, according to media reports in February. 

As a senior lawyer, Harris turned a blind eye toward violent incidents following the massive protests amid anti-extradition bill unrest, used so-called "peaceful protests" to disguise the essence of the riot and accused verdicts by courts and attacked the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government and the Hong Kong Police Force, the liaison office spokesperson said. 

As he takes the British judicial system as a model and the UK government has been recently pushing forward the law amendment in enhancing police authority in managing the protests, including sentencing protesters who damage monumental structures to up to 10 years of imprisonment, why did not Harris criticize those who "deprive the rights of peaceful protests" in the UK, the Chinese official asked. 

If it is proved that violence was indeed involved at that unauthorized assembly, Lai and his co-defendants would be charged for inciting a riot and the maximum sentence is 10 years imprisonment according to local law, instead of the maximum five years for unauthorized assembly, Lawrence Ma, barrister and chairman at Hong Kong Legal Exchange Foundation, told the Global Times on Sunday. 

Lai was recently sentenced to 12 months and eight months in prison, respectively, for attending and organizing two illegal assemblies in August 2019. 

Since Harris became the chairperson of the association, he made constantly wild remarks, threatening to amend the national security law for Hong Kong and challenging the authority of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, posing confrontation against the rule of law and the constitutional order of Hong Kong. 

As a member of the Liberal Democrats, Harris serves the interests of the British political party, and as founder of the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, he received donations from US non-governmental organization National Endowment for Democracy, media reported previously. 

When running for election as head of the association, Harris was suspected of hiding his identity as a councillor for the city of Oxford. He stepped down in January. As a professional group, the association shoulder a number of legal responsibilities, so its president, of course, should follow the principle of "patriots governing Hong Kong."

"How could Harris as an anti-China political figure who is closely connected with foreign countries carry out principles in the association declaration including safeguarding the rule of law in Hong Kong, the Basic Law and 'one country, two systems.' If it continues to allow Harris to be president of the association, it would definitely be the biggest irony for the association," the spokesperson said. 

"He was voted up and he needs to be voted down," Ma said, noting that the challenges are many members of the bar association are politically anti-establishment and a motion to vote Harris out might not carry.