HONG KONG (AP) – A US lawyer who became the first foreign lawyer arrested under Hong Kong’s national security law said on Friday that courts now have a choice between the new law and the city’s legally free independence, as the Asian China broke down due to dissatisfaction. financial capital.
John Clancy was one of 55 people arrested last week for being involved in an unofficial primary election last year, officials say was part of a plan to paralyze the government and topple state power. He was released on bail and was not formally charged.
His Hong Kong home, where he has been living since 1968, changed from a British colony to a semi-autonomous Chinese territory in 1997, which enjoyed Western-style civil rights. This is now changing once again as China enacts strict new security legislation against activists, opposition lawmakers and others challenging the central government in Beijing.
“On the one hand, we have all these basic rights, including the right to democracy, voting, freedom of expression, built into basic law,” he said in an interview on Friday, citing the mini-constitution that governed Hong Kong. Has since returned to China.
“On the other hand, we have this new national security law. Both were passed by the National People’s Congress (of China). So Hong Kong courts, judges, must ultimately decide which takes precedence, and which is more robust: internationally recognized rights we have from birth, or is it going to become national security law? “
Clancy first came to Hong Kong as a missionary. Born in Jersey City, New Jersey, he speaks Cantonese and is married to a Hong Kong woman.
“Until now, I never considered, you know, leaving or going back,” he said.
He has a long history of working as a priest with the city’s poor and has lived his life for social justice, inspired by his religious faith. He worked with activists to fight for basic freedom like voting before being handed over to China by the British.
Subsequently, many residents had left the city for fear of returning to China under the Communist Party rule. Clannie stayed.
“Given what was laid down in the Basic Law and the Joint Declaration, I was quite hopeful, because it very clearly states that internationally recognized rights will be part of Hong Kong society,” he said. The Sino-British Joint Declaration, signed in 1984, sets general conditions for the 1997 withdrawal.
“I was in an optimistic camp that said, listen well, it’s in the law, so let’s keep working to make it a reality, and let’s make it sooner rather than later,” Clancy said.
The same year as Handover, he began working as a lawyer. Clancy later joined Ho Tse Y & Partners, known for its civil rights work. It challenged a face-mask ban during anti-government stonewalling demonstrations in the city in 2019. The firm’s founder, Albert Ho, is a pro-democracy activist.
Clancy was arrested for his work as treasurer of Power for Democracy, a political organization involved in informal primaries that the pro-democracy camp was held last year.
Although the pendulum in Hong Kong moved towards more restrictions rather than diminishing, it said it was important to keep moving forward.
“My approach has been, you live according to your conscience, you live according to your principles, you live according to the people you’re dealing with, and you keep moving forward,” he said. “And even in dark days, I think it is very important to maintain hope.”