Hong Kong legal professionals said the detention of leaders of political groups advocating "Hong Kong's independence" demonstrated the spirit of rule of law and will help stopping the escalated violence.
Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Agnes Chow Ting and Andy Chan Ho-tin, have been arrested, Hong Kong police confirmed Friday. They were closely connected with recent violent incidents.
Arresting offenders is conducive to maintaining social order, CM Chan, vice president of the Law Society of Hong Kong, said Friday at a conference held in Hong Kong. "Whatever 'reasonable' claims they have, they cannot break the law."
Robin Li Weibin, legal consultant of the Hong Kong Chinese Enterprises Association, said the police only make an arrest when they have solid evidence, urging the Department of Justice of China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) to bring the detainees to court as early as possible.
Wong and Chow were suspected of inciting others to participate in unauthorized gatherings and others, while Chan was suspected of rioting and assaulting a police officer.
A person who is convicted of rioting faces up to 10-year imprisonment in Hong Kong. Last year, the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal made clear that cases of public disorder that involve violence would be severely dealt with.
"That is the general principle that's now applied. I would expect the courts to keep in mind what the court of final appeal has said and to pass serious sentences," said Grenville Cross, honorary professor of law with the University of Hong Kong and former director of public prosecutions.
Offenders in violent incidents may also face severe consequences. People who attacked police officers with Molotov cocktails could be charged of attempted murder, Cross said. "Those running the explosive factory could be charged of manufacturing materials likely to endanger life and the penalty for that is life imprisonment."
"Someone who is a mastermind or ringleader will receive higher penalty," Cross added.
Sabrina Ho, Junior Counsel of the HKSAR and with Des Voeux Chambers, said surrender and confession, as a manifestation of responsibility and remorse, will be taken into account by the court in sentencing.
She called on those who violated the law under the coercion of extremists to turn themselves to the police as soon as possible to strive for leniency.
In terms of recent online violence against police officers, Li Weibin said authorities could also prosecute those leaking personal information of police officers and threatening officers' family members.
"Obviously any sort of violence is reprehensible and it's very important that the forces of law and order are fully supported in their task of containing the violence," Cross said.
Legal professionals believed the HKSAR government has ample legal means to stop violence, including the Emergency Regulations Ordinance.
The conference, held by the Hong Kong Chinese Enterprises Association's Legal Affairs Steering Committee, assembled more than 140 legal professionals here on Friday to discuss solutions to the current social instability in Hong Kong from a legal perspective.