The Hong Kong government will disband organizations that cross “red lines” and disregard national security, Chief Executive Carrie Lam warned on Aug. 17.
She then threatened one of the city’s key legal professional associations, saying that the government would not hesitate to cut ties if it turns political.
Hong Kong authorities continue to suppress dissent after the Chinese regime passed the national security law on June 30, 2020. Since then, authorities have arrested pro-democracy leaders and activists, as well as journalists and free media managers. Critics say the draconian law targets the city’s freedoms.
At the press conference, Lam also talked about Beijing’s plans to extend the anti-foreign sanctions law to Hong Kong. The Chinese regime is using the law to retaliate against foreign-imposed sanctions. The law, which China’s rubber-stamp legislature passed in June, requires that all individuals and organizations in China, regardless of their citizenship or registered status, must execute the sanctions that Beijing launched against foreign counterparts.
Lam said this extension “may have generated other anxiety [in Hong Kong].” She suggested initiating local legislation against foreign sanctions, although she didn’t have an explicit timetable on it.
Carrie Lam’s Warning
Lam warned Hongkongers to stand in line with the government at Tuesday’s press conference. She especially threatened Hong Kong’s Law Society, saying that it shouldn’t let its “professionalism be trumped by politics.”
Lam’s comments come before an Aug. 24 election for five seats on the council of Hong Kong’s Law Society, the professional association and regulator for the city’s 12,000 solicitors.
Hong Kong also has the Bar Association for barristers, whose chairman, Paul Harris, has been labelled as an “anti-China politician” by the Hong Kong Liaison Office—Beijing’s representative in the city—after Harris criticized jail terms handed to some pro-democracy politicians.
Although the Law Society is seen as more conservative than the Bar Association, debates in its recent elections have focused on a more liberal agenda. This year, four of the candidates are considered outspoken, raising fears among some government officials of a political agenda.
The Law Society said it remains politically neutral.
“We are always communicating with relevant governmental departments, expressing opinions to improve the [law] practice environment, and regularly responding to inquiries on different issues from a legal perspective,” Law Society President Melissa Pang was quoted as saying by Chinese media during a press conference on Aug. 17.
On Aug. 17, pro-Beijing Hong Kong media Singtao reported that Paul Harris will not seek re-election as chairman of the Bar Association after his term ends on January 2022.
On Aug. 15, the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) announced its disbandment because its convener, Figo Chan, was sentenced on May 28 to 18 months’ imprisonment on charges of organizing an unauthorized assembly in 2019.
CHRF is affiliated with almost all Hong Kong pan-democratic camps. It is the main organizer for the annual July 1 pro-democracy march, which marks the handover of the British colony to Beijing that took place in 1997.
On Aug. 10, Hong Kong’s largest trade union, the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (HKPTU), announced the end of its 48 years of operation, days after it was criticized by Chinese state-run media and the city’s Education Bureau severed ties, accusing the group of spreading politics in schools.
HKPTU had about 95,000 members, of which 90 percent were educators in the city. The pro-democracy union used to have one member on the Legislative Council for the education constituency, until November 2020 when all pro-democracy lawmakers resigned.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.