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China targets Hong Kong bar association head for defending 2019 'peaceful' protests

ANI | Updated: Apr 26, 2021 06:47 IST

Hong Kong, April 26 (ANI): China's top office in Hong Kong has ratcheted up attacks against the city's bar association chairman Paul Harris for defending demonstrations of 2019, denouncing him as an "anti-China politician".
In a statement, China's liaison office said: "It makes a mockery of the Bar Association by condoning Paul Harris to continue chairing the group."
"How could such an anti-China politician as Paul Harris who has close connections with foreign countries fulfil the principles of safeguarding Hong Kong's rule of law and the Basic Law and support the one country, two systems principle as previously stated by the Bar Association?" a spokesman for Beijing's liaison office in Hong Kong said on Sunday.
The statement comes after Harris' defended the right to peaceful protests after 10 people, including newspaper mogul Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, were convicted for their roles in illegal assemblies on August 18 and 31 in 2019, South China Morning Post reported.
The liaison office spokesman went further to question Harris' loyalty to Hong Kong given his association with foreign organisations - a charge the senior barrister vigorously denied - and asked the Bar Association whether it wanted Harris to continue as chairman, urging it not to walk further down the path of politicisation or it risked going down an "abyss".

The liaison office attack was prompted by an interview Harris gave to news website Stand News last week when he had noted the convictions over the August 18 and 31 protests marked the first time a Hong Kong court had imposed prison terms for illegal assembly, arguing that peaceful demonstrations were a legal and valuable channel for people to express their emotions and grievances. Otherwise, they could turn to more destructive action, he warned.
The liaison office spokesman accused Harris of ignoring the repeated violence during large-scale protests over the now-withdrawn extradition bill. Harris used the phrase "peaceful demonstrations" to "conceal and whitewash their illegal nature, openly excuse the offenders, unreasonably accuse the court" and attacked the Hong Kong government and police for trying to impose law and order, he said.
China is tightening its grip on Hong Kong by taking actions against pro-democracy lawmakers, officials and activists.
The protests erupted in June 2019 over the now-withdrawn extradition bill. The bill was deemed as an example of increasing Chinese influence in Hong Kong.
The opposition to the bill morphed into wider and often violent civil unrest. It eventually led to Beijing imposing a national security law on the city last June. The law has been condemned by countries around the world and rights activists.
China imposed the draconian National Security Law in Hong Kong last year.
The law criminalises secession, subversion, and collusion with foreign forces and carries with it strict prison terms. It came into effect on July 1. Since then, a number of former pro-democracy lawmakers have been arrested. (ANI)