Hong Kong's radical protesters go too far

Jeffrey Lam says radicals must learn that their actions, including verbal attacks on individual members of the judiciary, will not be tolerated

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 June, 2015, 3:34pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 June, 2015, 3:34pm

Hong Kong society should not tolerate radical protests carried out in the name of freedom of expression. Since the Occupy protests ended in December, we have seen a series of spontaneous guerilla actions, the most recent being the disruption of a school debating competition.

In these guerilla actions, including the so-called "shopping tour" campaigns, protesters do whatever they want in the name of freedom of speech. They have blocked the entrances to public events and stores, held loud rallies inside the venues, disrupting the proceedings and hampering business. Out of fear of more trouble, those affected are reluctant to take legal action.

There may be more to come: groups have threatened to storm the Legislative Council building and launch another Occupy movement this month if the government's electoral reform proposal is passed in Legco.

The government must take decisive and tough action to stop the proliferation of such raucous protests, or the "cancer" will spread and undermine the rule of law. That's why I support the decision by the organiser of the debate competition to take legal action against the protesters. Youngsters should be taught that such radicals are setting a bad example, and that their actions carry consequences.

Meanwhile, the growing disrespect of our judicial system, aggravated by our very divided society, needs immediate attention. In recent months, whenever a defendant involved in the Occupy Central movement has been found guilty of a related offence, some have claimed it was a "political prosecution".

To make matters worse, some criticism has even targeted individual judges who handled the Occupy cases; in one case, a judge's background was "flesh-searched" and "exposed" by internet users. Some used abusive language to vilify him.

Such attacks on the judiciary have raised the alarm about the need to uphold the rule of law and respect for an independent judiciary. Judges rule only on evidence presented by the various parties. It is not up to the individual to decide what a law means in Hong Kong.

Thanks to our rule of law, freedoms and transparency, Hong Kong has become a leading international financial centre with many major companies setting up their headquarters here. We must be proud of our clear advantages and defend them.

With freedom of speech, we can point out errors in a trial's procedure or errors in the judges' interpretation of the law. What we should not tolerate is abusive and personal attacks on judges, undermining the rule of law, a fundamental principle of democracy.

Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung is a legislative councillor in the commercial (first) functional constituency