HK lawyers launch petition in support of China activists

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Originally published by Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 20, 2015

Hong Kong’s legal professionals have launched a global signature campaign to express support for the dozens of mainland human rights activists and lawyers who had been detained by Chinese authorities recently.

At least 500 members of the local legal sector are participating in the campaign, according to Apple Daily.

Among those who have signed up on the petition are 13 former chairmen of the Hong Kong Bar Association and all the members who represented the legal functional constituency in the Legislative Council, as well as the sector’s election committee members, the report said.

Chinese authorities are believed to have detained or taken in for questioning 102 mainland lawyers and 36 human rights activists since July 14, in a crackdown spread across 18 provinces.

The petition by Hong Kong’s legal professionals denounces China for its harassment of lawyers and human rights activists.

It calls on Beijing to respect the constitutional rights of the lawyers and their clients. Among other things, family members must be provided information of the detainees’ whereabouts, it said.

Barrister Audrey Eu, who was chairman of the Hong Kong Bar Association between 1997 and 1999, said it was an unprecedented move by the mainland government to arrest lawyers on such a scale.

The petition will continue until Beijing stops its crackdown, she said.

Martin Lee, founding chairman of the Democratic Party, said President Xi Jinping is not putting his words into action after emphasizing in the past that rule of law will be a pillar of his administration.

Ensuring the stability of the country does not mean the government can infringe on the rights of human rights lawyers, he said.

Barrister Cheung Yiu-leung said Beijing is using the crackdown as a warning to all the activists in the country.

Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a coalition of human rights groups, meanwhile has posted on its website a letter written by a mainland lawyer Wang Quanzhang before his arrest.

In the letter, Wang apologized to his parents for failing to provide them with a cozy retirement life. He said he hopes that his parents will appreciate the fact that he has lived his life on the principles instilled in him, namely honesty, kindness and integrity.

Wang said he will continue with the difficult path of defending human rights in China.

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