I wouldn’t go so far as to say the legal community has reached a pivotal moment where it redefines itself and will stand from now on for some sort of higher ideal. But recent events have shown us that the legal world has limits. It is willing to live with situations, at least for a while, that many would deem disagreeable, objectionable and even dishonorable. But there is a point at which at least some of its members decide they’ve had enough.
I’m not referring here to the response by international law firms to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which we’ve examined at length and will continue to address as long as the war continues and the news warrants it. No, this week we witnessed this shift in Hong Kong, when two judges who sat on Hong Kong’s highest court, the Court of Final Appeal, abruptly resigned, citing the threat to civil liberties posed by the national security law that Beijing imposed on the territory in 2020. Since that law took effect, Hong Kong’s national security police have arrested more than 100 Hong Kong residents, including pro-democracy protestors who have participated in the country’s demonstrations and marches since 2019.