Officials appeared to have blatantly disregarded the courts by deporting two mainlanders just minutes before a judge's order against their removal, the Bar Association chairman said yesterday. Describing the incident as of 'great concern to the people of Hong Kong', Ronny Tong Ka-wah SC quoted a ruling in England in which similar government action led to a secretary of state being convicted of contempt of court. 'The whole episode gives rise to an impression (false, I hope) that the [Director of Immigration] was stealing a march on the courts and that he had little respect for the rule of law and the authority of the courts,' Mr Tong wrote in a letter to the South China Morning Post. 'One would expect a mature and responsible Government to respect its subjects' rights to challenge the legality of its actions and thus where a challenge is made or about to be made, the Government will hold its hand and leave the matter to be adjudicated by the courts. 'It would be a sad day for any modern society if the state were to try to beat the judicial system by rushing through its administrative acts whenever it felt that its actions might be changed in accordance with the law.' Migrants Lui Kwan-chung, 20, and Chan Fung, 31, were sent back to the border even though the Director of Immigration knew court proceedings were about to begin, Mr Justice Frank Stock was told in the Court of First Instance hearing this week. The pair were claiming right of abode in the SAR and were taken to the border on July 21 just 17 minutes before a judge ordered the Government not to remove them. Mr Tong asked why the Government had not explained its handling of the case when its actions could be interpreted as a blatant disregard for the rule of law. 'A golden opportunity was perhaps missed by the Director,' he said, 'in not seizing the occasion to explain to the court that there was no intention not to respect the authority of the courts.' An Immigration Department spokesman said: 'Persons entering Hong Kong illegally commit an offence and are subject to removal. Any mainland residents who claim right of abode . . . must apply for a Certificate of Entitlement on the mainland.'