The profession should be inspired by the heroism of these lawyers and honour them, Shi says
With the Law Society of Ontario’s commitment to monitor human rights violations that targeting members of the legal profession, bencher and trial lawyer Chi-Kun Shi wants the LSO to act on behalf of Hong Kong lawyers who uphold and defend the rule of law but face human rights violations in China.
The LSO often writes letters to foreign governments opining on the rule of law and human rights, and Shi says that intervening for Hong Kong lawyers and paralegals in China honours their courage and sends a signal that they are supported and remembered.
The LSO wrote a letter to President Xi Jinping and Chief Executive Carrie Lam in May 2021 condemning the human rights violations of legal professionals and unjust sentencing of lawyers Dr. Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, Martin Lee Chu-ming and Albert Ho Chun-yan for participating in “unauthorized protests” in April 2020.
The letter urged the president to comply with China’s international human rights laws, including the United Nation’s universal declaration of human rights.
“The recent convictions and unjust sentencing of lawyers and pro-democracy advocates lawyers Dr. Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, Martin Lee Chu-ming and Albert Ho Chun-yan underscore the continuing assault on freedom of expression and right to assembly in Hong Kong. Arresting and charging lawyers and other human rights defenders who have engaged in peaceful assembly and advocacy creates a dangerous standard for all those who work to promote and defend human rights and the rule of law in Hong Kong.”
The LSO asked for the immediate and unconditional release of Ngoi-yee, Chu-ming and Chun-yan, the dismissal of their convictions and assurance that all lawyers, paralegals and human rights defenders can carry out their professional duties without fear of reprisals and physical violence.
Shi says she hopes the LSO will act within its power, “walk the talk,” and grant honorary LSO membership to Ngoi-yee, Chu-ming and Chun-yan. She intended to bring forward the motion for honorary membership on October 1 convocation but says she withdrew the motion to rework it.
“Instead of singling out three people who has illuminated the legal profession, I would like to include all the unsung heroes, lawyers and paralegals in Hong Kong who have stepped up in face of tyranny to defend our shared value of rule of law,” she says.
For example, “the young lawyers who jumped into taxis to follow paddy wagons to police station to represent the demonstrators arrested. They would want to be remembered.”
In February, Shi brought a motion to convocation for the resignation of former chief justice of Canada Beverly McLachlin from the Hong Kong final appeal court.
Shi told the LSO that the Chinese government uses the presence of foreign judges to maintain the illusion of legitimacy amid increasing human rights violations, and with the National Security Law, the Hong Kong final appeal court has become an arm of the Chinese communist government.
The motion failed to pass convocation.
Shi says the LSO should lead by action in its commitment and mandate to support the honour legal professionals who uphold the rule of law to “considerable personal sacrifice.”
“Let us be inspired by the heroism of the Hong Kong lawyers and paralegals. Honor their aspirations. Value what we have in Canada. Cherish and defend our fundamental freedoms with courage and conviction. Talk less and do more.”