One of the major aspects of the work of the Law Society is to promote legal knowledge to all walks of life and to raise awareness of the importance of the Rule of Law and the strength of our judicial and legal systems.
To this end, we regularly organise a series of community projects. For the past 27 years, we annually organise “Law Week” to reach out to the public via television shows, radio programmes and social media channels introducing practical legal knowledge applicable to daily lives, and helping the public with their problems through free legal advice in street booths.
“Teen Talk” is another annual event through which the Law Society interacts with over 1,000 secondary student participants on legal issues that are relevant to school kids e.g. how to handle cyber-bullying. Throughout the year, we also organise many other community activities all aim at educating different sectors of the public about their legal rights. These activities include the Law Society’s Legal Pioneer Mentorship Programme, talks on the Basic Law and other legal topics organised for schools, social enterprises and NGOs.
We are honoured to be able to help raise public awareness of the fundamental legal rights in society and the importance of the Rule of Law.
It is evident that with increasing awareness of the law, the public is generally becoming more vocal in debates on issues relating to the Rule of Law and the administration of justice. Robust debates are healthy for a democratic society. However, it is important that debates be conducted in a rational manner basing on fair, informed and reasoned discussions. I would like to take this opportunity to raise awareness of the need to respect the equal rights of others, in the course of asserting one’s individual rights.
There have been several occasions where abusive comments on judicial decisions or judges were made in public discussions. For instance, in February 2017, there was wide media and public attention over certain decision of the District Court and abusive comments were made against the judge concerned. Then in July 2018, unjustified and derogatory comments were made against another judge arising out of her judgment and sentencing in a criminal case concerning the riot in Mongkok in 2016.
There is nothing wrong for an individual to voice out his views and to demand respect for his right to freedom of speech, but he must, at the same time, be respectful of the judicial system and refrain from making unfounded comments that judicial decisions were made or influenced by political considerations, or abusive comments or criticisms amounting to personal attacks on the judges.
Although these comments were made by a minority of the community, they could be damaging to the respect that the public has for a court’s decision made through the due process of law. The frequency in which these comments appear also seems to have increased, which is worrying.
The Rule of Law, as well as an independent and professional Judiciary, has all along been widely respected by communities in Hong Kong as well as internationally to be the cornerstone for the economic success of Hong Kong.
Hong Kong has maintained a strong international reputation on its support for the Rule of Law. In the 2018 Index of Economic Freedom, Hong Kong, which tops the Index for the 24th consecutive year, is described as “a high-quality legal framework provides effective protection of property rights and strongly supports the rule of law. There is little tolerance for corruption, and a high degree of transparency enhances government integrity.”
This high level of respect and confidence in the Hong Kong judicial system does not come easy. It has been hard earned through the continual efforts in upholding the system’s integrity by our distinguished and professional judges and all stakeholders. This should never be allowed to be undermined or compromised by irresponsible and unfounded comments or be dragged into the political arena.
One of the important roles of the Law Society is to safeguard the Rule of Law and to uphold those principles on which this core value is founded. We have full confidence in the proper functioning of the judicial system under “One Country Two Systems” in accordance with the Basic Law and we will continue our efforts to defend the Rule of Law, the key to the social stability, economic success, and overall well-being of Hong Kong.
MELISSA PANG, PRESIDENT