Hong Kong’s professional body of barristers has condemned the arson at the Shatin Law Courts building on Wednesday evening.

The Hong Kong Bar Association (HKBA) said the attack stood out from other instances of violence and arson because of the “symbolism” of targeting court buildings.

shatin law courts building arson
Arson at the Shatin Law Courts building. Photo: Telegram.

“It represents an attack on the independent judicial authority of the HKSAR. It is difficult to think of anything that is more corrosive to the Rule of Law,” the Bar Association said in a statement on Thursday.

“Attacks on private property are bad enough but if attacks on court buildings continue, the constitutional fabric of the HKSAR will be torn asunder with disastrous consequences for every Hong Kong resident.”

The arson attack has also been condemned by Melissa Pang, president of the Hong Kong Law Society. Pang said that she was very concerned that the incident may have been caused by people dissatisfied with the court’s ruling, and it may be intended as an act to intimidate the judiciary.

The courts fairly conduct rulings on each case based on the law and facts, and anyone who disagrees with a first-instance ruling can appeal, she added.

Philip Dykes bar association
Bar Association chair Philip Dykes. Photo: HKFP/Kris Cheng.

At around 9pm on Wednesday, a fire was reported at a flower bed outside the Shatin Law Courts building. It is unclear whether the fire was related to a court decision made earlier that evening where a judge dismissed an injunction application to stop the police from entering the Chinese University of Hong Kong without a warrant.

Separately, a Molotov cocktail was also thrown into the yard of the building that previously housed the Tsuen Wan Magistrates’ Court on November 8.

A person who said he was a protester claimed responsibility for the act, telling Stand News that the building was deliberately targeted because of the perceived unfairness of magistrates.

Tsuen Wan Magistrates' Court arson
The building that formerly housed the Tsuen Wan Magistrates’ Court was targeted for arson on November 8. Photo: Stand News screenshot.

The protester said that the courts have failed to convict any of the police officers accused of misconduct in the past months, and instead “cooperated with the government’s political prosecutions.”

Bar Association defends judiciary

The Bar Association has been among the most outspoken professional groups during the pro-democracy protest movement, which has entered its sixth month.

On Saturday, the barristers’ group issued a separate statement in response to a meeting between Chief Executive Carrie Lam and Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng.

While the Chinese leader called on the city’s executive, legislative and judicial branches to “stop violence and restore order,” the Bar Association said that the judiciary should be allowed to do its job “independently, free from any interference.”

west kowloon law courts building judiciary
File photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

“Although the desire to see the present troubles ended is obviously understandable, any statement made by the Central People’s Government or its officials, which could be taken as an official exhortation to judges to achieve a particular objective may be seen as an encroachment on the independence of the judiciary,” it said.

“This can injure the principle of [a] high degree of autonomy for the HKSAR as enshrined in the Basic Law and undermine the concept and practice of One Country, Two Systems.”

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Holmes Chan

Holmes Chan

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.