There was universal condemnation on Monday of arson and vandalism by anti-government protesters targeting Hong Kong’s judiciary, with the city’s top body of barristers denouncing those responsible as “not genuine protesters, but criminals,” the South China Morning Post reported on Monday.
A day after the entrances of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal in Central and the High Court in Admiralty were firebombed, calls for a citywide strike to mark six months of civil unrest went mostly unheeded.
A garbage bin thrown onto the MTR tracks near Sha Tin station caused a temporary suspension of services along the East Rail Line, but no serious disruptions were reported elsewhere.
Calls to paralyze traffic came a day after 800,000 people – according to organizers’ estimates – took part in a police-approved march on Sunday, held for the first time since August by the Civil Human Rights Front.
While Sunday’s march was mostly peaceful, some protesters turned to violence on the sidelines.
Two gasoline bombs were thrown at the front door of the Court of Final Appeal at around 7 pm, four hours after protesters took off from Causeway Bay for Chater Garden, where the top court is located.
The attack at the High Court’s front gate came earlier in the day. Several broken bottles and a burned carpet were found at the scene. The entrance was spray-painted with the message, “Rule of Law is dead.”
Before heading into his office in the top court building on Monday, Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li inspected the damage but did not make any comments, according to the Post report.
The Hong Kong Bar Association “deplored” the violence against the judiciary “in the strongest terms.”
“People who commit such acts are not genuine protesters but criminals,” it said in a statement. “They must be brought to justice.”
The Law Society, the city’s professional body for solicitors, also issued a strong condemnation of the attack on “judicial integrity and independence.”
“Venting dissatisfaction by throwing [gasoline] bombs at court buildings and vandalizing property must be abhorred. Those who commit these criminal acts must stop taking the law into their own hands. These acts will not help resolve any problem,” the Law Society said in a statement, a day after its president, Melissa Pang Kaye, expressed shock over the attacks.
Pro-establishment heavyweight Maria Tam Wai-chu, a deputy director of the Basic Law Committee, called it “outright disrespect to the rule of law,” and urged the police to bring the perpetrators to justice.
At a media briefing on Monday afternoon, police dismissed speculation about any involvement of undercover officers, condemning the arson attacks as “destructive acts” against judicial independence.
A group that has become the de facto voice of the protesters would not condemn the attacks, claiming instead that the courts had become toothless tools for police to use against the public.
Senior Superintendent Li Kwai-wah of the organised crime and triad bureau also said investigators were following up on the seizure of weapons on Sunday which led to 11 arrests.
The weapons included a Glock semi-automatic pistol with five magazines, three of which were loaded. Officers also seized three daggers, knives and 105 bullets.
Li said police were tracking down the source of the firearm and expressed concern that some of the weapons seized were similar to those used by police.
Five suspects, aged between 20 and 23, were charged at Eastern Court on Monday with various offences including conspiracy to wound others with intent and possessing arms or ammunition without a licence. Two were granted bail.