The Hong Kong Bar Association has condemned a call by seven US Congress members for sanctions on designated national security judges and prosecutors over Beijing’s alleged attempts to crush opposition in the city.

Victor Dawes
Hong Kong Bar Association Chainman Victor Dawes. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

The Bar Association expressed “grave concerns” over a letter from the Congress members to President Joe Biden dated May 3, which called on him to impose “more comprehensive and targeted sanctions” to “stop Hong Kong’s decline and protect US interests.”

According to Politico’s report on Monday, the seven are Vicky Hartzler, John Curtis, Mike Gallagher, Don Bacon, Young Kim, Michael Guest and Brian Fitzpatrick.

They said those Hong Kong judges who were handpicked to handle cases under the Beijing-imposed national security law, and prosecutors in those cases, should be sanctioned for “materially contributing to the failure of the People’s Republic of China to meet its obligations under the [Sino-British] Joint Declaration.”

Court of Final Appeal judiciary
Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal. Photo: GovHK.

The Bar Association on Thursday defended the integrity and independence of Hong Kong judges, saying their selection, appointment and discharge of constitutional role and duties were “free from any political considerations and interference.”

The organisation, which represents the city’s barristers, added that lawyers – whether defending or prosecuting – should not be subject to “illegitimate pressure.”

“The Bar deplores and condemns in the strongest terms any attempts by anyone, anywhere, to interfere with the operation of Hong Kong’s independent judiciary and the administration of justice in Hong Kong,” it said in a statement.

Calls for overseas government sanctions on Hong Kong and China are considered collusion with foreign forces, which is an offence under the sweeping security law. The legislation enacted on June 30, 2020 also outlaws secession, subversion and terrorist acts.

Hong Kong’s judiciary also condemned the suggestion of sanctions, calling it a “blatant and direct infringement” of the rule of law and judicial independence, local media reported.

Joe Biden
Joe Biden. Photo: Adam Schultz/White House, via Flickr.

The seven members of congress told Biden that they had seen “more troubling trends” in Hong Kong in recent weeks and months, including the closure of pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, the disbanding of civil society groups and the charges brought against organisers of the Tiananmen vigil.

They expressed fears that the Chinese Communist Party will “completely quell opposition to their influence in the region” unless the US took “more rigorous and lasting measures.”

“Hong Kong’s national security law places US citizens and business institutions located in the territory at serious risk of arrest and prosecution for exercising their basic freedoms,” the letter read.

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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.