Australian lawyers are demanding the immediate release of pro-democracy activists who are jailed in Hong Kong.
At least 14 veteran activists were arrested on the weekend and charged for their roles in massive anti-government protests in Hong Kong last year.
Among those arrested were 81-year-old former lawmaker Martin Lee and human rights barrister Margaret Ng.
Law Council of Australia president Pauline Wright says the arrests violate the right to peaceful protest.
“The Law Council, together with the international legal community, will continue to defend the rights to peaceful protest and freedom of speech in Hong Kong,” she said on April 20.
“We further urge the Hong Kong government to engage in constructive dialogue with leaders of the pro-democracy movement in order to foster a climate in which their legitimate concerns over democracy and human rights can be addressed,” she said.
Wright said the arrests are the biggest detention of pro-democracy leaders since the movement began, originally sparked by the introduction of an extradition bill.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne—who condemned months of violent clashes—is concerned the arrests have happened in the middle of a global pandemic.
“Actions that undermine stability are never acceptable, but to do so during a crisis of this magnitude erodes goodwill and trust,” she said.
“The rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are enshrined in the Basic Law for all people of Hong Kong.”
By Rebecca Gredley