04/21/2020, 11.14
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Bar Association: Beijing offices have no oversight over Hong Kong

by Paul Wang

According to the Hong Kong Constitution, the Liaison Office and the Office for Relations with Hong Kong and Macao cannot interfere in internal affairs. China and the local government had argued otherwise. Beijing pressure on arrests and sentences of anti-extradition demonstrators. Xi Jinping fears that the wave of democracy will also overflow in China.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - The Hong Kong Bar Association has declared that the Beijing Offices in the territory (the Liaison Office and the Office for Relations with Hong Kong and Macao) have no oversight over the internal affairs of Hong Kong.

In a text released yesterday afternoon, the Association said that the two Offices are subject to the Basic Law (the Hong Kong Constitution) and they are prohibited from any interference in the internal affairs of the territory, as stated in article 22.

The group of lawyers brought as evidence a document from the Legco (the Hong Kong parliament) which in 2007 affirmed the submission of the Offices to article 22. They also cited a 2018 statement by Patrick Nip, Secretary for Constitutional Affairs and for China, which states that the Liaison Office "will, as always, follow the laws of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, according to the requests stipulated in article 22 of the Basic Law".

The declaration is a slap in the face to the local government which released three statements on April 18 in a row: in the first it was declared that the two Beijing offices were under art. 22; in the second, all references to art. 22 were removed; the third defends the power of the two Offices to supervise Hong Kong activities because they are not subject to the regime of art. 22.

It is also a slap in the face of Luo Huining, the new director of the Liaison Office, a  "Xi Jinping man", nominated in the midst of the crisis linked to the anti-extradition demonstrations that have taken place in the territory since June 2019.

According to some analysts, Luo has the mandate to "restore" the former colony that pushes for democracy to Beijing. Last week, his office lashed out against the parliamentary opposition of the Democrats, accusing it of "obstructionism" to China's  vision.

“Proof” of his aim to set off this tug of war in the territory came on April 18, when the police arrested 15 personalities of the democratic movement, accused of having "organized and participated in illegal assemblies" in recent months.

These leading figures include Martin Lee, a Catholic, one of the fathers of the democratic movement, and the jurist Margaret Ng, a former parliamentarian and advocate in defense of human rights.

Their arrest adds up to the thousands of arrests that have taken place in recent months, all linked to participation in anti-extradition demonstrations. Weeks ago, the Justice Department said 7600 people have been arrested since the demonstrations since 9 June. They are between 11 and 84 years old. 17% of those arrested are under the age of 18.

Revelations have also surfaced in recent days that Hong Kong judges have received orders from Beijing not to acquit any protesters.

Article. 22 of the Basic Law guarantees Beijing's non-interference in Hong Kong affairs, safeguarding its autonomy inscribed in the "one country, two systems" principle. According to several observers, Xi Jinping fears that the growing pro-democracy wave in Hong Kong may also overflow into China, where the criticism of civil society has grown following the Covid-19 epidemic and the silence of the regime.

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