A former lawmaker yesterday accused the Government of exploiting the law to suppress freedom by arresting five students who demonstrated outside government headquarters in June. Barrister Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee's remarks came after Secretary for Security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said on Wednesday that 'students, or any other group, could not put themselves above the law and forever expect to be exempted from prosecution'. But Ms Ng said: 'I think she doesn't understand . . . she is distorting what the rule of law means. This is not rule of law. This is rule by law. This is rule by using the law as an instrument to suppress legitimate freedom.' Ms Ng, who represented the legal profession in the last Legco and is standing again in next month's election, said she had no idea whether the police would press charges against the students. But she urged: 'They should reconsider the matter. What kind of message are they going to send? 'After all, it is clear that the students were having a peaceful demonstration. I think this Government is trying to tighten up. It is moving to a more hardline policy. I think this will create more conflicts and discontent, and it's bad for the stability of society.' Under the revised Public Order Ordinance, demonstrators must apply for a notice of no-objection from the police at least seven days before holding rallies or demonstrations. But Ms Ng said: 'When the amendment was introduced in the provisional legislature, the Government claimed that it would not use it. This gives you the lie. It shows that you have done so. In fact, you are using such law to restrict people's freedom.' On Wednesday, Mrs Ip said that in arresting the students, the police were following the due process in making inquiries into possible criminal offences that occurred during the protest in support of abode-seekers outside the Central Government Offices.