Former top judge says interesting things

Former Chief Justice Andrew Li neatly lined up and picked off pretend- and real targets yesterday in a speech to assorted people in suits who probably didn’t expect to hear anything interesting. He warned the pro-democrats of the Occupy Central civil disobedience campaign that an unlawful assembly is, well, unlawful. This statement of the obvious is bound to meet with the approval of Beijing’s officials and the broad front of business and patriotic groups they have herded into a state of contrived apoplexy over the idea of people sitting in the street demanding universal suffrage. Just in case any pro-democracy activists take his comments the wrong way and feel hurt, Li reminded his audience that the most ‘effective’ (why didn’t he just say ‘admirable’, ‘thrilling’, or ‘cool’?) political demonstration in Hong Kong was the law-abiding 2003 one. The one that essentially overthrew then-Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa.

Li was not there to tell Beijing what it wants to hear. His main point was that the Communist procedure known as interpretation, under which the Chinese government can summarily change the meaning of even the most plainly worded and unambiguous clause of the Basic Law, makes a mockery of the concept of an independent judiciary. It’s especially bad, he noted, if Beijing uses the mechanism to overturn decisions that a Hong Kong court has already made (rather than pre-empt them). To make his comments more inflammatory, he added that he sees Hong Kong’s Basic Law as giving the city separation of executive, legislative and judicial powers, with checks and balances (and, those of us of anglospheric heritage will infer, Magna Carta, Shakespeare, apple pie, red-white-and-blue, from sea to shining sea, rah rah rah). This is the exact opposite of what Communist Party ideology and scowling Chinese officials insist; to them, and to any Leninist functionaries, separation of powers is incompatible with the one-party state and thus dictatorship of the proletariat, or whatever-it-is-these-days with Chinese characteristics.

Who is right? Seen from the ground here in the Big Lychee, Hong Kong does indeed have separation of powers: the administration has to beg lawmakers for funding and grovel, often nauseatingly, to pass bills; the courts can and do push the other two branches around on grounds of law. Seen from Beijing, however, this alien, colonial, Western, bourgeois contrivance is safely encapsulated within the one-party system: the executive is chosen (via rigged ‘election’) and appointed by the central government; the rigged functional constituency system guarantees Beijing a veto in the Legislative Council. And, yes, the courts are subject to ‘interpretation’. Morally, Andrew Li may be right, but China’s globally recognized national sovereignty says Beijing is right.

The former Chief Justice hadn’t finished. Rather wittily, he said he finds it ironic (as in ‘hypocritical’, perhaps) that pro-Beijing/pro-establishment politicians who  whine about activists, radicals and smart-asses making them look foolish through judicial reviews of executive action are now demanding that everyone shut up about the HKTV licensing mega-screw-up because it might be subject to… an oh-so-important-and-venerable judicial review.

So: a playful pretend-slap-down for pro-democrat subversives in league with Taiwan splittists; a blunt contradiction of what Beijing insists is incontrovertible and fundamental constitutional truth; and an amusing kick up the backside for a hapless government already slipping on every banana skin it can find. Who says an ex-judge’s speech has to be boring?

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15 Responses to Former top judge says interesting things

  1. gweiloeye says:

    I love the title of the scowling Chinese official you mention – “Publicity Director” – why don’t they just call it what it is – “Propaganda Director” – if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck…

    And in other news I am now fully satisfied that people the world over are stupid:
    1. Chinese Woman gets c-section: “…my daughter might be cleverer because her head was not squeezed in labour” – obviously that woman wasn’t born by c-section.
    2. Western Women using Chinese medicine to help get pregnant : “Law said 90 per cent suffered from a condition Chinese doctors called “kidney deficiency” – meaning the reproductive system was weak or unhealthy rather than being related to the kidneys.” – Que? Somehow I think the deficiency is a bit higher up in the patient to believe this rubbish.
    3. Someone pays USD58 mill for a 3 metre high metal depiction of a balloon animal. ’nuff said.
    4. Carrie Lam following the heartless, bitter government line re bus thing. Jesus wept!!

  2. reductio says:

    @gweiloeye
    Excellent list. However you forgot in 2. to mention that powdered rhino horn imbibed during the administration of extensive acupuncture to the male gonads is a sure-fire route to reproductive success.

  3. Sid says:

    reductio, Yes, but powdered Asian unicorn horn makes you even even stronger.

    I hope Hemlock doesn’t mind if I query a couple of minor points:

    I’m not convinced HK has full separation of powers as regards Legco. In the democracies, elected legislators do just that: draw up laws. But here their role is limited: certainly approving financial bills and vetoing quasi-constitutional reforms, even conducting investigations, but the power of Legco is overall less than in other countries and in any case many FC members are actively colluding with the executive.

    Also, the separation of powers may in certain quarters be perceived to be an Anglo sort of idea. But other countries possibly implement it to a greater degree than, for instance, the US or the UK (political appointment of supreme cort judges, law lords, etc.).

  4. Believer says:

    How to make the world stage via Sky News and savour the distaste from the new readers voice as she spell outs HK will continue to push for sanctions against the Philippines despite…………
    Well done Carrie and her cabal

  5. Oneleggoalie says:

    Oneleg was going to keep his juvenile racist crap…to himself after the sober topic of judges and Basic Law shit…

    But after rhino horns…unicorns…and superstitious nonsense (Jesus )…another one of those…

    http://www.thegrandcinema.com.hk/movie_content.aspx?visMovie=2155&visLang=2

    …best film 2013…hot.

  6. Sojourner says:

    “How to make the world stage via Sky News …”

    As if CY and Carrie care. The dance to the movements of the only ones who matters: the puppet masters in Beijing.

  7. Sojourner says:

    TheY dance … It’s a long day.

  8. Incredulous says:

    She should have been on that bus!

  9. Sojourner says:

    @ My missus still thinks Ms Lam is the conscience of the government.

  10. Joe Blow says:

    Wasn’t the separation of powers a French idea ?

  11. Real Scot Player says:

    Joe. Nope. Yet another one from Blighty.

    Basically everything decent and interesting is from Blighty between Queens Eizabeth I and Ii

  12. Alice Poon says:

    I thought it was Montesquieu who first articulated the theory of separation of powers in his work “The Spirit of the Laws”.

  13. Sid says:

    Alice, Certainly, although he was influenced by Roman and British ideas and practice.

  14. Sojourner says:

    Montesquieu was directly inspired by the existing British Constitution. Also John locke had already essentially formularted the idea.

  15. Magna Carta was before Elizabeth I.

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