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‘Insufficiency of Mutual Trust’: Hong Kong’s Pro-Democracy Protesters to Get Pro Bono Aid

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Protesters stage a sit in on a street in Hong Kong’s financial district on July 2. Reuters

About 30 Hong Kong Lawyers Plan to Offer Free Legal Aid in Case of Arrests

Background: In June, hundreds of Hong Kong lawyers joined a march after China’s cabinet, the State Council, issued a white paper declaring that “loving the country” was a basic political requirement for all Hong Kong administrators, including judges and judicial personnel.

CHESTER YUNG, ISABELLA STEGER and EDWARD NGAI reporting: HONG KONG—Dozens of Hong Kong lawyers are lining up to offer pro bono assistance to pro-democracy protesters, in a move that highlights the legal community’s growing concern over potential infringement on the city’s judicial independence by Beijing.

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A large pro-democracy demonstration in Hong Kong in July. Philippe Lopez/Agence France-Presse, Getty Images

“Hong Kong is part of a sovereign country.…There is a constitutional obligation for all institutions in Hong Kong…to safeguard national security.”

—  Wang Zhenmin, dean of the Tsinghua University School of Law in Beijing

Also see:

Activist group Occupy Central has threatened protests to paralyze Hong Kong’s main business district if Beijing, in a decision expected to be announced on Sunday, moves to effectively bar any pro-democracy candidates from running for chief executive, the city’s top post, in 2017 elections.

Mr. Wang Zhenmin blamed the uproar over the white paper on “insufficiency of mutual trust” between Hong Kong and China.

A group made up of about 30 mostly local lawyers is prepared to offer free legal assistance to Occupy Central demonstrators in case they are arrested, said Alvin Yeung, organizer of the lawyers’ group. “We want to make sure the protesters’ civil rights are protected,” he said.

About a dozen lawyers in the group provided pro bono legal advice to more than 500 demonstrators who were arrested after a July 1 pro-democracy rally, explaining to detainees their rights and in some cases helping them obtain bail.

Instead of supporting the protests on the frontline, “we deal with the firefighting at the end,” Mr. Yeung said.

Dennis Kwok, a member of the group that represents the legal community in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, said there is already a sufficient pool of pro bono lawyers and that more are signing up.

In June, hundreds of Hong Kong lawyers joined a march after China’s cabinet, the State Council, issued a white paper(read more)

WSJ

Write to Chester Yung at chester.yung@wsj.com and Isabella Steger at isabella.steger@wsj.com

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5 Comments on “‘Insufficiency of Mutual Trust’: Hong Kong’s Pro-Democracy Protesters to Get Pro Bono Aid”

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