It's a sign that One Country, Two Systems is working when 25 Hong Kong legislators of various stripes openly call for the release of tainted milk activist Zhao Lianhai who was jailed last week for two and a half years.
Their appeal came two days before the deadline for appeal -- but Zhao's lawyer Li Fangping is having a hard time getting a hold of his client to sign the appeal application. How convenient for the Chinese government.
In any case, Beijing-loyalist and pan-democratic groups both expressed their sympathy for Zhao in yesterday's debate in the Legislative Council.
Zhao had been convicted of "provoking quarrels and making trouble" after he organized a group seeking compensation for the families affected by milk tainted with melamine two years ago.
"In a civilized era, we cannot tolerate the fact that a plaintiff is made a defendant, and then a prisoner," said Frederick Fung Kin-kee, of the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood.
The 25 lawmakers, 23 of which were from the pan-democrats and independents Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and Dr Leung Ka-lau jointly signed the letter to the Supreme People's Court calling for Zhao's release.
"We demand respect for, and protection of, citizens' constitutional rights, and the immediate release of Zhao Lianhai," the letter said.
However, pro-Beijing lawmakers were anxious about signing the letter. "There could be repercussions if we over-politicize this case... co-signing a letter is a political action," said Dr Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, who had instead signed another letter calling for a retrial.
This recent letter follows one on Monday where 28 Hong Kong deputies to the National People's Congress wrote to the court urging for more lenient judgment on the case.
While Li, Zhao's lawyer was pleased about the NPC deputies supporting Zhao, he said he was having trouble meeting his client. He's already tried three times to get Zhao to sign the appeal application, but strangely can't get a hold of him.
"This is crucial... if we fail to meet the deadline of applying for an appeal, I won't have 100 percent confidence."
Here is where rule of law fails to be upheld in China. A lawyer cannot even meet his client to lodge an appeal. Zhao has already suffered enough injustice by being accused of causing trouble, and now he can't appeal the sentence.
This will only provoke more outrage against the government. Does it really want to create more civil unrest? That is what rule of law is for.