The lawyers were among 15 veteran pro-democracy figures rounded up by the authorities.
The International Bar Association (IBA) has reacted to the arrest of two renowned lawyers by Hong Kong authorities, according to the Law Society Gazette.
Martin Lee QC and Dr Margaret Ng have received worldwide accolades for their “lifelong defence of freedom, democracy and the rule of law,” having been jointly awarded the IBA’s Human Rights Award last year. Lee is also regarded as the “grandfather” of Hong Kong’s democracy movement, having founded the Democratic Party.
However, three days ago on 18 April, they, along with 13 other pro-democracy figures, including rights lawyer Albert Ho and Apple Daily owner Jimmy Lai, were allegedly detained on suspicion of organising and participating in “unauthorised” assemblies.
The IBA noted that there was no reason given as to why the arrests were only made now, considering the Hong Kong protests occurred in August and October 2019.
Under Hong Kong law, residents are guaranteed rights to “freedom of speech, of the press and of publication; freedom of association, of assembly, of procession and of demonstration” based on the “one country, two systems” policy. The IBA considered the arrests to be a “continued assault” on these rights, and pushed for the charges against the arrested figures to be dropped.
“'It is critical that authorities do not use their powers to encroach on fundamental human rights, and it is vital that legal systems continue to protect citizens from any abuse of power which may otherwise be unseen during the COVID-19 crisis in which the international community is submerged,” the association said in a statement. “We call on the authorities to discontinue such politicised and targeted prosecutions immediately and urge the Hong Kong government instead to engage in constructive dialogue with the leaders of the pro-democracy movement to foster a climate in which their legitimate concerns over democracy and human rights can be met.”
Radio Free Asia reported that Lee was released on bail on the same day as his arrest, and intended to continue protesting the system.
“Over the months and years, I’ve felt bad to see so many outstanding youngsters being arrested and prosecuted, but I was not charged," Lee said. “Now I've finally become a defendant.”