HONG KONG (SE): Around 100 people from the legal profession gathered for a celebration of the opening of the Legal Year on January 9 at St. John’s Cathedral at which they prayed for justice and the rule of law.
Presided over by Archbishop Paul Kwong and John Cardinal Tong Hon, the ceremony was arranged for the same day on which local judicial officers mark the beginning of the legal year at City Hall.
Reverend Will Newman, a chaplain to Stanley Prison, spoke at the Anglican cathedral of his experience of being with prisoners during their struggle to distinguish right from wrong, saying that an important part of this process is that they are able to help one another in learning.
Reverend Newman said he is happy to see that the rule of law in Hong Kong does protect people’s personal safety and he expressed gratitude to the legal profession for its dedication to social justice and the upholding of the rule of law which gives Hong Kong a chance to be one of the safest cities in the world.
He observed that legal practitioners are challenged regularly, as they are required to make important judgements on sensitive issues like political reform.
However, he added he believes that although Hong Kong people have diverse views on universal suffrage, polarisation of opinion will not lead to the disintegration of society.
He said the purpose of the Ten Commandments, like the law, is to prevent people from harming one another and both are based on the same principle which was summarised by Jesus Christ in the word love.
“We may not be able to find laws about love in Hong Kong or other places, but love is what makes it worthwhile for us to live,” Reverend Newman said.
Cardinal Tong led the gathering in prayer for various needs, including that justice be upheld by the legal profession, the work of the Correctional Services staff and the reform of prisoners.
Geoffrey Ma Tao-li, the chief justice of the Court of Final Appeal; and Andrew Cheung Kui-nung, the chief judge of the High Court; proclaimed the readings from the scriptures.
Cardinal Tong and Archbishop Kwong jointly blessed the congregation in their work for the coming year.
Alan Leong Kah-kit, a veteran barrister and former legislator, said he believes that the greatest blow to the rule of law last year was the fifth interpretation of Hong Kong laws by the National People’s Congress.
He explained that this sows seeds of doubt over the independence of the judicial system in Hong Kong. He said he will pray for the rule of law in the territory and hopes that people in power will not abandon the strong foundation for the stability in Hong Kong society simply to smooth over temporary problems.
Dennis Kwok Wing-hang, who represents the legal profession in the functional constituency, described the big challenge faced by the present judicial system as being inadequate resources and personnel.
He is also worried about Beijing’s interpretation of Hong Kong law, an issue which he said all Christians should be concerned about.
Augusto da Roza, from the Thomas More Society and was one of the organisers of event, said the prayer gathering blesses the legal profession at the beginning of a New Year and reminds its members of the presence of God in life.