A publicly-funded lawyer office in Hong Kong has removed posters linked to the 2019 pro-democracy protests and unrest, after a users of a pro-Beijing Facebook group complained that such materials were calling for independence, which is banned under the Beijing-imposed national security law.

The Duty Lawyer Scheme confirmed with HKFP on Wednesday that its office in the Shatin Magistrates’ Court took down some protest-related slogans and posters on Tuesday. The public legal representation team said it was an “unwritten rule” that lawyers on duty should not discuss politics or display relevant statements in the workplace.

A photo circulated online shows the words “Hongkongers add oil” on a notice board. Photo: Internet.

“[N]o political statement, discussion, propaganda or poster can be made, conducted and/or displayed in any of our offices and while discharging of public duties in assisting the due administration of justice as a fully public funded and subvented organisation,” the organisation said in an email reply.

The removal came after photos of the posters were shared on the pro-Beijing Facebook group Save HK, where netizens accused the office of displaying a large number of publicity materials advocating Hong Kong independence.

Two photos circulated online showed the slogan “Hongkongers add oil” on a notice board inside the office. There was also an English alphabet poster titled “Hong Kong Protest ABC.” It featured phrases related to the large-scale demonstrations, including “extradition bill,” “independent commission of inquiry” and “tear gas.”

A photo circulated online shows an English alphabet poster titled “Hong Kong Protest ABC.” Photo: Internet.

“This is such a disregard of laws and regulations,” the Save HK post read.

The Duty Lawyer Scheme said that, following an “urgent investigation,” the case was reported to the head office and the individual staffer involved was “severely reprimanded.”

The scheme offers legal representation to defendants appearing at all magistrates’ courts and juvenile courts. Anyone who wish to use their legal assistance has to go through a means test and pay a fixed handling charge of HK$610.

Calls for Hong Kong independence are now criminalised under the national security law, which was imposed on Hong Kong by Beijing to outlaw secession, subversion, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts.

Hong Kong police raise a purple flag in a demonstration to warn against violations of the national security law. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

The Hong Kong government banned the popular protest slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” two days after the sweeping legislation was promulgated, saying it had secessionist, subversive and pro-independence connotations.

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Holden Chow of the DAB party said on Wednesday that the posters were “inciting” and showed support for “black violence.” He urged the judiciary to launch an investigation and seriously penalise whomever was involved in the incident.

“If it is not handled seriously, who would believe the judiciary, Hong Kong, would safeguard the rule of law?” Chow asked when meeting the press at the Legislative Council.

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Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.