Statement on the Arrests of the Trustees of the 612 Humanitarian Fund and Intimidation of Defence Lawyers

  1. On 11 May 2022, the five trustees of the 612 Humanitarian Fund (“612 Fund”) were arrested for allegedly colluding with foreign forces, contrary to the National Security Law imposed by Beijing. If charged and convicted, they could face up to life in prison. 
  2. The 612 Fund was set up in 2019 to assist pro-democracy protestors in paying for medical attention and for legal fees. The role of the 612 Fund is facilitating access to justice, which is a fundamental right under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, not to mention Hong Kong’s own Basic Law and Bill of Rights Ordinance. However, once the Hong Kong government took the view that any form of protest (including the most peaceful) is criminal, then any associated activity became suspect too.
  3. As a result, any form of mobilization or community organization in Hong Kong is now viewed with hostility by the regime. The severe crackdown by weaponization of the common law and Beijing’s imposition of the National Security Law has obliterated Hong Kong’s once-vibrant civil society. 
  4. We are also extremely concerned by the national security police’s intimidation of lawyers who had assisted pro-democracy protestors with the support of the 612 Fund. Following the police investigation into the 612 Fund, the police made complaints against certain solicitors and barristers to the Hong Kong Law Society and Hong Kong Bar Association for alleged “professional misconduct”. Defence lawyers taking on politically sensitive cases are under immense undue pressure, especially following comments by a District Court Judge that they could be liable for supporting riots
  5. This approach by the government stands in stark contrast to its position when government lawyers tried to retain London silk David Perry QC to prosecute Martin Lee SC and other democracy leaders for their roles in a peaceful protest in 2019. Defenders of David Perry QC relied on the cab-rank rule, a rule of professional conduct which obliges lawyers to take on any case in which they are competent; Hong Kong’s Secretary of Justice Teresa Cheng claimed that criticism of him acting as a “mercenary” for the Hong Kong government’s political prosecution was “unfair and biased”. 
  6. Further, it is reproachable that the national security police used “collusion with foreign forces” as an excuse to arrest the five trustees. In the Hong Kong Alliance’s case, the prosecution refused to provide particulars as to who the “foreign force” was. Until compelled by the courts to provide information, the national security police can now arrest anyone with impunity as long as they make a bare allegation of collusion. The defence is not only left to prove a negative, but to prove a negative against the whole world. This makes a farce of Hong Kong’s legal system. We fear that this lack of transparency may also happen in the case of the 612 Fund and other cases of alleged “collusion with foreign forces”. 
  7. All five trustees of the 612 Fund have made immense contributions to Hong Kong society over the years:- 
    1. Cardinal Joseph Zen is the Catholic Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong. For decades, he was a fixture in the democracy movement, and is widely respected. At age 90, he continues to support political prisoners by attending them in prison.
    2. Margaret Ng is a distinguished barrister who served as the legal profession’s elected representative in the Legislative Council for 18 years. She continues to represent those arrested on political charges, including national security charges, in court. She has received numerous accolades, including the 2019 International Bar Association Award for Outstanding Contribution by a Legal Practitioner to Human Rights, and the 2020 American Bar Association International Human Rights Award
    3. Hui Po-keung is a prominent cultural studies scholar who has played a major role in fostering intellectual debate on political and social issues in Hong Kong. 
    4. Cyd Ho served as an elected representative in the Legislative Council for 6 years. She is well known for her advocacy for labour rights, women’s rights, race equality, and LGBTQ issues. She is presently serving a prison term for her role in a peaceful protest. 
    5. Denise Ho is a singer, democracy activist, and LGBTQ icon. 
  8. The trustees of the 612 Fund are the true moral leaders of Hong Kong. For their efforts, the Hong Kong government is responding with retribution: Margaret Ng, Denise Ho and Cyd Ho have been targeted multiple times in the past 2 years for their participation in peaceful protests, their contribution to independent media outlet Stand News (whose senior editors have also recently been arrested), and now for their role in the 612 Fund. 
  9. Each of these politically-motivated arrests deal a heavy blow to Hong Kongers who hope to live out their values of freedom and community. Hong Kongers are waiting for the rest of the world to wake up to the fact that the PRC and Hong Kong governments have no regard for their international obligations. In the meantime, Hong Kongers are paying with their liberty. 

13 May 2022 

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