Lawyers gather in front of the court of final appeal during a march in defence of judicial independence in Hong Kong, June 27, 2014.
Nearly 2,000 members of Hong Kong’s legal profession, wearing black, marched silently on Friday to the territory’s highest court in protest over a recent white paper by China asserting Beijing’s power and declaring that Hong Kong judges should be “patriotic.”
The white paper, issued on June 10 amid growing political tension surrounding the democratic process in the upcoming 2017 chief executive race, categorizes judges in Hong Kong as administrators who need to be “patriotic,” as well as asserting Beijing’s “comprehensive jurisdiction” over the former British colony.
The paper has been roundly criticized by the influential Hong Kong Bar Association, while a retired judge and two leading law deans came out in support of Friday’s marchers.
Some 1,800 lawyers, legal scholars, and law students wearing black gathered outside the High Court in Admiralty at around 5.00 p.m. and marched to the Court of Final Appeal.
A University of Hong Kong law student surnamed Chan, who took part in the march, said he was marching in solidarity with the territory’s widely trusted judicial system.
“I am afraid that Hong Kong’s judicial independence is coming under political pressure, and I fear it will waver,” Chan said.
“That’s why I have come out in support of it,” he said.
A few dozen pro-Beijing protesters also gathered at the start of the march, shouting “we support the white paper!”
Judicial independence threatened
Hong Kong Civic Party Chairman Audrey Eu, herself a lawyer by profession, said Beijing’s white paper had sparked widespread fears that the ruling Chinese Communist Party would start micromanaging Hong Kong, despite having promised the territory “a high degree of autonomy” ahead of its1997 handover from Britain.
“There were some areas of this white paper that weren’t in line with the Basic Law or the principle of ‘one country, two systems,'” Eu said, referring to Hong Kong’s miniconstitution.