Hong Kong’s crisis: What do lawyers have to do with it?

By Jerome A. Cohen

Here is an eloquent plea just issued inviting practicing lawyers in Hong Kong to join the newly-formed Neutral Legal Observers Group to monitor abuses on all sides of the current struggle: The Law Is Our Business by Davyd Wong.

This is undoubtedly a desirable professional response to the political stalemate. It is ironic that it appeared at the same time that the Council on Foreign Relations published its interview with me suggesting that HK’s Law Society and Bar Association should be among the nonofficial organizations to finally take the initiative to form some sort of unofficial but influential investigative, reconciliation or unity commission to help break the increasingly dangerous political deadlock. The Neutral Legal Observers Group won’t do that.

Hong Kong lawyers are admirable professionals. I know that from cooperating with them for decades. However, they are also capable of doing more than the Neutral Legal Observers Group calls for. Hong Kong has highly-skilled dentists. We don’t expect dentists to contribute their skills to help resolve political crises but we should expect lawyers to do so.

I hope the lawyers will stimulate formation of a new political group that will call for, and begin, public hearings to examine the origins of the crisis, the actions of the Hong Kong Government including the police and their agents, and the actions of the various protesters. This independent public commission should also examine whatever evidence exists that the crisis was secretly fomented by and is still supported by foreign organizations.