Hong Kong protests: petrol bomb attacks on city’s courts condemned as act of ‘criminals, not genuine protesters’

South China Morning Post 發布於 2019年12月10日00:12 • Chris Lau and Alvin Lum
  • Entrances of Court of Final Appeal in Central and the High Court in Admiralty were firebombed on the sidelines of a peaceful protest march
  • Law Society condemns attack on judicial integrity
Fire damage at the Court of Final Appeal in Central after radical protesters threw petrol bombs at the entrance on Sunday. Photo: Nora Tam

There was universal condemnation on Monday of arson and vandalism by anti-government protesters targeting Hong Kong's judiciary, with the city's top body of barristers denouncing those responsible as "not genuine protesters, but criminals".

A day after the entrances of the Court of Final Appeal in Central and the High Court in Admiralty were firebombed, calls for a citywide strike to mark six months of civil unrest went mostly unheeded.

A rubbish bin thrown onto the MTR tracks near Sha Tin station caused a temporary suspension of services along the East Rail Line, but no serious disruptions were reported elsewhere.

Calls to paralyse traffic came a day after 800,000 people " according to organisers' estimates " took part in a police-approved march on Sunday, held for the first time since August by the Civil Human Rights Front.

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While Sunday's march was mostly peaceful, some protesters turned to violence on the sidelines.

Two petrol bombs were thrown at the front door of the Court of Final Appeal at around 7pm, four hours after protesters took off from Causeway Bay for Chater Garden, where the top court is located.

The attack at the High Court's front gate came earlier in the day. Several broken bottles and a burned carpet were found at the scene. The entrance was spray-painted with the message, "Rule of Law is dead".

Before heading into his office in the top court building on Monday, Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li inspected the damage but did not make any comments.

The Hong Kong Bar Association "deplored" the violence against the judiciary "in the strongest terms".

View of the damage done to the High Court in Admiralty after radical anti-government protesters threw petrol bombs at its entrance during Sunday's march. Photo: Nora Tam

"People who commit such acts are not genuine protesters but criminals," it said in a statement. "They must be brought to justice."

The Law Society, the city's professional body for solicitors, also issued a strong condemnation of the attack on "judicial integrity and independence".

"Venting dissatisfaction by throwing petrol bombs at court buildings and vandalising property must be abhorred. Those who commit these criminal acts must stop taking the law into their own hands. These acts will not help resolve any problem," the Law Society said in a statement, a day after its president, Melissa Pang Kaye, expressed shock over the attacks.

Pro-establishment heavyweight Maria Tam Wai-chu, a deputy director of the Basic Law Committee, called it "outright disrespect to the rule of law", and urged the police to bring the perpetrators to justice.

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Front convenor Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit spoke out against the attacks, urging the public to protect the courts.

At a media briefing on Monday afternoon, police dismissed speculation about any involvement of undercover officers, condemning the arson attacks as "destructive acts" against judicial independence.

A group that has become the de facto voice of the protesters would not condemn the attacks, claiming instead that the courts had become toothless tools for police to use against the public.

Senior Superintendent Li Kwai-wah of the organised crime and triad bureau also said investigators were following up on the seizure of weapons on Sunday which led to 11 arrests.

The weapons included a Glock semi-automatic pistol with five magazines, three of which were loaded. Officers also seized three daggers, knives and 105 bullets.

Li said police were tracking down the source of the firearm and expressed concern that some of the weapons seized were similar to those used by police.

Five suspects, aged between 20 and 23, were charged at Eastern Court on Monday with various offences including conspiracy to wound others with intent and possessing arms or ammunition without a licence. Two were granted bail.

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Chief Superintendent Kwok Ka-chuen of the Police Public Relations Branch said 6,022 people aged between 11 and 84 had been arrested since June 9 " 2,392, or almost 39.7 per cent, of them students.

A total of 956, or 15.9 per cent of those arrested, had been charged in court for various offences, he said.

At the same time, the Complaints Against Police Office had received 1,300 complaints against officers so far, but the force would not reveal if any had been penalised.

Police also updated their munitions tally, saying 16,000 canisters of tear gas, 10,000 rubber bullets, 2,000 beanbag rounds and 1,850 sponge bullets had been fired so far.

Meanwhile, there were further signs showing that the relationship between the executive and legislative branches has worsened.

In a letter to the Legislative Council, the government's administrative wing revealed that they were reviewing whether the city's embattled leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor would continue to address Legco once a month to answer lawmakers' questions, as opposition legislators had stopped Lam from delivering her annual policy address in October.

Additional reporting by Brian Wong

Copyright (c) 2019. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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