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Hundreds of HK lawyers march to support anti-govt protesters

They rally against politically motivated prosecutions

HONG KONG: Lawyers in Hong Kong held a silent march in support of anti-government protesters yesterday, highlighting the movement's enduring broad appeal despite increasingly ominous warnings from Beijing.

Hundreds of lawyers in black marched under the scorching sun from the city's highest court to the Justice Secretary's office.

The rally came as daily demonstrations have become increasingly violent, and China ramped up its warnings to protesters, saying on Tuesday that "those who play with fire will perish by it".

The legal professionals - who usually eschew demonstrations - have now marched twice since early June. They are backing the protest movement's demand for an independent inquiry into law enforcement tactics but also said they were marching against politically motivated prosecutions from the city's Department of Justice, AFP reported.

"I really dislike how this government uses scaremongering and divisive tactics," Senior Counsel Anita Yip said.

"They carry out prosecutions selectively... How would people still have confidence in the government?" she added, referring to the perceived difference between how police have treated protesters and their opponents, pro-government thugs with suspected triad links.

PROTESTERS ARRESTED

Hong Kong police have arrested more than 500 protesters and charged dozens with rioting, which carries a maximum 10 years in jail.

In a statement after the march, the city's Justice Department insisted it engaged in "objective and professional assessment" to determine which cases to prosecute.

"The DOJ will not handle the cases differently due to the political belief or background of the persons involved," it added.

Meanwhile, the head of China's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office yesterday said Hong Kong is facing its worst crisis since it returned from British to Chinese rule in 1997, Reuters reported.

"Hong Kong's crisis... has continued for 60 days, and is getting worse and worse," Mr Zhang Xiaoming, one of the most senior Chinese officials overseeing Hong Kong affairs, said during a meeting in the Chinese city of Shenzhen.

"Violent activities are intensifying and the impact on society is spreading wider. It can be said that Hong Kong is now facing the most severe situation since its handover," he added.

Cathay Pacific Airways and the owner of Hong Kong's luxury Peninsula hotel became the latest companies to highlight the impact of recent protests on their businesses.

Cathay Pacific said yesterday the protests reduced inbound passenger traffic last month and travellers were weighing on forward bookings, as it reported a swing to a half-year profit.

The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, owner of The Peninsula, is worried about the impact of the protests on tourist arrivals as well. - AFP

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