Presidents of Law Associations of Asia (POLA) Conference 2019
15 August 2019
Caption: Law Council President, Arthur Moses SC, with the President of the All China Lawyers' Association, Mr Wang Junfeng.
With issues about to upholding the rule of law in Hong Kong looming large on the international agenda, Law Council of Australia President, Arthur Moses SC, took a strong stance on the matter at the recent Presidents of Law Associations of Asia (POLA) Conference held in Kunming, China.
At POLA, which was held from 31 July to 2 August, Mr Moses SC met with President of the All China Lawyers’ Association (ACLA), Mr Wang Junfeng, and they discussed the need to work collaboratively with the international community to develop and promote rule of law projects in our region. Mr Moses also raised concerns regarding the detention of Chinese-Australian writer Dr Yang Hengiun.
Importantly, Mr Moses SC was chosen by Mr Wang to represent the other international Presidents and speak on their behalf to China’s Vice Minister of Justice, Mr Xiong Xuebing. He took this opportunity to raise the principles of the rule of law and human rights and link them with the United Nations’ Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers. At the conference conclusion, the President of the Hong Kong Law Society arranged for a proposed resolution which attempted to criticise the protesters in Hong Kong and their use of violence. Mr Moses SC spoke out strongly against this resolution and proposed an alternative resolution, which set the action of the protesters in the context of the defunct Hong Kong extradition bill.
The resolution urged the leaders at POLA to condemn violence in Hong Kong against or by protesters and for all sides to engage in a peaceful resolution process. After some negotiation, a Statement was agreed upon, and to date, has been signed by all but three POLA presidents present.
At the event, Mr Moses SC also delivered Australia’s annual Country Report, noting one of his priorities was to engage with Asia and work collaboratively to develop and promote rule of law projects in the region. He noted respect for the sovereignty of Australia’s neighbours is, and must remain, a fundamental pillar of international law, as well as respect for human rights and all that entails. Mr Moses SC also raised the Law Council’s role in the debate over the Hong Kong extradition bill, stressing it was vital for every nation to have an independent legal profession that could practise law without fear of reprisal.
A roundtable discussion on legal aid and public legal service systems across nations was also held. At this event Mr Moses SC spoke of the rule of law being undermined by difficulties in accessing justice and the situation in Australia, with its chronic underfunding of legal assistance.