The Hong Kong Bar Association (HKBA) has demanded that Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng take action against pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao over its attack on a High Court judge who last week ruled against the police practice of riot officers not displaying their ID numbers at protests.
The association on Monday published a letter it had sent to Cheng expressing its "utter dismay and astonishment" at the way the newspaper reported on the ruling.
The HKBA noted that a front page headline on Friday read "Thugs rule, no human rights for policemen" and was accompanied by a cartoon depicting a protester saying to an officer "Show me your number, the judge backs me".
The association said the article conveyed a message that judge Anderson Chow was partisan and biased in favour of protesters, or that he supported criminal activities.
"The [Bar] Council considers that Ta Kung Pao has gone beyond the boundary of acceptable criticism of judicial decisions," the letter said, adding that the article "hovers on the margins of a contempt of court".
The HKBA reminded Cheng that as justice secretary, it falls to her to defend judges and the judiciary against "the pernicious accusations made in the newspaper article," and urged her to "take appropriate action".
Meanwhile, the association also issued a statement warning that individuals who criticised Chow and questioned his motives and integrity could have breached the law.
"Members of the public have the right to discuss and criticise judicial decisions through rational discourse and debate. There is, however, no justification whatsoever for exerting pressure on judges in an attempt to persuade them to decide cases one way or another," the statement said.
"Depending on the circumstances, this kind of pressure constitutes an interference with judicial proceedings and may be a contempt of court."