- The Hong Kong Rule of Law Monitor stands with Dennis Kwok and Kevin Yam, both Hong Kong lawyers named as fugitives by the Hong Kong national security police on 3 July 2023. We condemn the campaign of harassment that the Hong Kong government, the Hong Kong Law Society (“HKLS”) and the Hong Kong Bar Association (“HKBA”) have brought against them and their families.
- Both Kwok and Yam have been steadfast advocates for the rule of law in Hong Kong, in vast contrast to the HKLS (now led by Chan Chak Ming), HKBA (now led by Victor Dawes), the Secretary for Justice, and the current representative for the legal sector in the Legislative Council.
- Dennis Kwok was the elected representative for the legal sector in the Legislative Council. He was elected to this position with 56% of the vote in 2012, and re-elected with 69% of the vote in 2016. The government disqualified him from running in 2020 due to his political stance. He was the awardee of the 5th Commonwealth Law Conference Rule of Law Award 2021, and recipient of the New York State Bar Association International Section’s Award for Distinction in International Law and Affairs.
- Kevin Yam was one of the founding convenors of the Progressive Lawyers Group, and former member of the HKLS constitutional affairs and human rights committee. In 2014, he campaigned on a non-confidence vote against then-HKLS president Ambrose Lam, who had made comments praising the Chinese Communist Party and supporting Beijing’s White Paper which mandated that judges should be regarded as part of the government’s administrators. Following changes to election rules, in 2021 Lam became the representative for the legal sector in the Legislative Council with less than half of the votes that Dennis Kwok garnered in the previous election.
- The police allegations made against Kwok and Yam are all based on their peaceful advocacy for Hong Kong. Such speech is protected by law, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Hong Kong’s own Basic Law and Bill of Rights. By criminalizing Kwok’s and Yam’s peaceful speech, the Hong Kong authorities are in breach of their own legal obligations to protect fundamental rights in Hong Kong.
- In the wake of the police announcement, the unelected Secretary for Justice Paul Lam lodged complaints at the HKBA against Kwok, and at the HKLS against Yam. Both the HKBA and HKLS have instituted investigations, and removed them from their list of members.
- On 20 July 2023, Kwok’s family members were detained by the national security police for questioning, as were the family members of other exiled activists. We find this an overt act of intimidation completely unrelated to investigations of any purported crime.
- Any institutional protection of fundamental rights in Hong Kong offered by the legal system has been dismantled at the hands of the government, and yet the HKLS and HKBA are bending over backwards to keep up pretenses. We call upon legal professional bodies around the world to voice their support for Kwok and Yam and the beleaguered Hong Kong lawyers that they represent, as the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, the American Bar Association, the Law Council of Australia, the New York City Bar Association, the Commonwealth Lawyers Association, and LAWASIA have done.
1 August 2023
Hong Kong Rule of Law Monitor