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Hong Kong situation a risk for Aussie lawyers www.afr.com

Legal groups across Asia have called for a peaceful resolution to anti-government protests in Hong Kong and warned a controversial extradition bill could affect Australian citizens.

Law Council of Australia president Arthur Moses, SC, used a conference of law association presidents in China to push for a statement calling out violence against peaceful protesters in the Asian financial hub, after more than three months of demonstrations.

The resolution says the sovereignty of all nations must remain a fundamental pillar of international law, but “as a guiding principle, there can never be any excuse for violence by, or against, peaceful protesters”.

“The concerns of citizens should be dealt with in a constructive and peaceful manner.”

Signatories to the resolution, released on Monday, include peak legal bodies from Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Mongolia, Malaysia, India and Sri Lanka.

The Hong Kong Law Society signed the resolution but so far groups including the All China Lawyers Association, the Vietnamese Lawyers Association and Associacao dos Advogados de Macau have not signed.

Mr Moses met with China’s vice minister of justice and again raised the case of Chinese-Australian writer, Yang Hengjun, detained in China on suspicion of “endangering national security”.

“Detainees like Dr Yang must be treated in a fair and transparent manner,” Mr Moses said.

He said the lack of an independent judiciary in China and its failure to adhere to the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, had resulted in lawyers being detained while acting for unpopular clients or causes and remained a risk for Australians.

“Being a true friend of any nation including China, means that when there are issues in a foreign justice system which raise concerns in relation to the rule of law, then the legal profession is obliged to speak up.”

Hong Kong police said on Sunday they had arrested about 30 people after clashes involving petrol bombs and bricks. Protesters attacked “smart lamp posts” equipped with surveillance cameras, after more than a week of mostly peaceful protests.

The now-suspended extradition bill sparked the growing protest movement which has evolved into demands for greater democracy and calls for an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality.

Demonstrators fear the erosion of the territory's “one country, two systems” governance, which has protected autonomy for Hong Kong since it was returned from British to Chinese control in 1997.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne on Sunday said Australia remained very concerned about violence on the streets of Hong Kong.

“We’ve encouraged the authorities to respect peaceful protest and we would continue to do that,” she told ABC TV.

“We’re obviously speaking regularly with our consul general in Hong Kong, and she is in direct contact with leading Australian Hong Kong organisations.

“For Australia, this is a very important part of the world. It’s one of our largest international diaspora. About 100,000 Australian Hong Kong people are there, a huge financial centre, of course, but most importantly, we see the success of one country-two systems that’s given Hong Kong the autonomy [and] ability to operate so well and to be such a rich and vibrant community as very, very important in our region.”

Senator Payne said violence against Hong Kong pro-democracy demonstrators in Australia, including on university campuses, would not go unchallenged.

“That violence against pro-Hong Kong protesters is completely unacceptable. It's unacceptable in Australia and it’s not something which we will tolerate.”



Published Date:2019-08-26