Out of the mouths of judges and innocents

When Hong Kong’s Umbrella-Occupy movement no longer spreads a little occasional mirth, it will be time for the protestors to go home. So far – amid controversy, drift and uncertainty – at least a few laughs keep coming, suggesting that the ‘tented communities’ should be around for a while yet.

Today’s amusement comes from Court of Final Appeal Judge Henry Litton, in personal comments at an event at HK University. He admits to being ‘intrigued’ by the SCMP-TopJudgeQuestionsapplications for injunctions against the sit-ins, which resulted in Monday’s judgment authorizing bailiffs to clear the streets.

In effect, he questioned why private plaintiffs were taking civil action in a public-order case, while the government, with its clear powers and duty to take action against people committing criminal acts, was sitting around doing nothing. He also wondered why the hearing was ex parte, behind occupiers’ backs, when the matter did not seem to be hugely urgent.

Judges (stereotypically) reinforce their reputation for being out of touch by asking innocent questions that make ordinary folk roll their eyes. However, Justice Litton reveals that he, like thousands of common people, has trudged around the Occupy site at Mongkok to find out more. His questions and his claim to be mystified by the injunction look more rhetorical and indeed part of the joke. (He was speaking at a forum on the Umbrella Movement and rule of law, which is a sort-of giveaway.)

We can have a stab at answering the questions. Associations of taxi operators and other United Front-linked groups applied for the injunctions at the behest of the local and Central governments. This is supposed to create the impression that the ‘silent majority’ people of Hong Kong are in conflict with the selfish, foreign-funded, National Education-skipping, economy-wrecking, splittist criminals inconveniencing society by blocking the streets. It is also presumably intended to help the government avoid enforcing the criminal law directly and delivering moral victory to the side of non-violent civil disobedience.

Ultimately, of course, it isn’t funny. Under pressure – indeed orders – from Beijing, the Hong Kong government is undermining rule of law in its desperate attempts to portray Kids in Tents on Streets as a mortal threat to the city’s well-being and thus avoid addressing the underlying problem of bad governance.

This is not a sustainable pattern. Either Beijing ends up reducing Hong Kong to a Mainland-style dictatorship, or the Hong Kong authorities have to backtrack at some point and admit that their bad policies and practices are the root cause of revolt. Most likely, cooler heads months down the road will attempt a face-saving way out where jolly officials vaguely resolve to do better in return for a few pro-democrats expressing some sort of grudging remorse for unspecified excesses and sins, and everyone SCMP-HKGovUnableknows everyone’s lying.

Meanwhile, ingenious officials propose the most hopelessly unconvincing face-saving device ever, in the form of a public sentiments report to Beijing that proudly boasts no known purpose. This is the government’s main tactic for now: stunning and silencing the enemy with bizarreness and idiocy.

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14 Responses to Out of the mouths of judges and innocents

  1. Dan the Man says:

    Let’s face it. HK is basically a police state right now. Those who beat Ken Tsang will never be prosecuted by the government and it looks like the courts will also block any private prosecution or civil lawsuit even thought the law clearly permits it. If a riot cop decided to kill his wife so he could marry a prettier younger woman, I don’t think the government would prosecute him either because the HK’s government existence is dependent on the police.
    As for the “7000” “HK cops” who will clear the protests, I don’t expect them to appear because it might be much worse. There have been reports (from real journalists) of the mainland police working with HK cops because the CCP considers HK cops to be too soft. So I think what will happen is the CCP will send some (hundreds, maybe thousands of) mainland “security” police to work with the HK police and have them pretend to be HK cops when they beat up and attack the protesters. There were already suspicions this happened in the Battle for Mong Kok because some people heard the police speaking Mandarin to each other. This also blames why during Battle for Mong Kok the cops were blocking their badge id number – some of them weren’t real HK cops.

  2. Maugrim says:

    The irony, Mainland elements using HK’s rule of law to achieve their ends.

  3. Stephen says:


    I don’t agree that Hong Kong is basically a police state but I do think Hong Kong is in a very sorry state as present as far as Governance is concerned. You have a Government that has almost given up trying to govern. The old model is so broken and corrupted that they are now taking direction from the central liaison office. China’s mandate over Hong Kong extends to Security and Foreign affairs period – not how we select our local government.

    Unfortunately CY Leung doesn’t see it that way, as he is a card carrying CCP believer. His pathetic deputy Carrie Lam is now marking time prior to retirement and relocation to Great Britain. So whose next – Antony Leung, a moneyed up Banker, who showed zero political savvy the first time round and will have no mandate, vision or spine to take this city forward.

  4. Incredulous says:

    Dan the Man is correct. I read an article earlier this year by Willy Wo Hop Lam in which he referred to the fact that a special unit had been set up in the Shenzhen police department that had ordered 1000 sets go HK Police uniforms. Could get nasty!

  5. Incredulous says:

    Correction “go” *of.

  6. Cassowary says:

    CY Leung thought that throwing out the occasional populist sop to the masses would keep them happy. Milk powder limits and stamp duty hikes and such. Clearly, that worked so brilliantly because people can’t tell the difference between an actual policy designed to help them and a PR stunt.

    Perhaps now they have concluded that the pesky people will never be happy so they might as well ignore them and let the tycoons milk this place for all it’s worth before it falls apart. It’s no good for anything else.

  7. Tom says:

    “…a public sentiments report to Beijing that proudly boasts no known purpose.”

    Is this a Zen thing, perhaps?

    Once, Bodhidharma Lau, the Sage of Mainland & Constitutional Affairs, visited the Emperor Chun-ying of Leung.

    “How much merit have I earned for ordaining Bauhinia Medal recipients, reporting diligently to the Central Government, and in many other ways carrying out the will of the Party with great purpose?” asked the Emperor.

    “None whatsoever!” replied Bodhidharma Lau. “Actions done with purposeful intent bring you no merit.”

    “So what is the highest meaning of governance?”

    “There is no governance,” said Bodhidharma Lau, “there is only emptiness.”

    The Emperor was taken aback at this. “Then, who is standing before me?”

    “I know not, Your Majesty,” said Lau.

    The Emperor was both shocked and impressed. He then commissioned Lau to prepare the next great report to the Central Government, which was to have no purpose and indeed might never be completed.

  8. Grumpy Old Sod says:

    Interesting to see Jake vdK in his SCMP column today effectively alleging government intervention in the lower Hong Kong courts with regard to money laundering. Pretty wild accusation that will no doubt attract some fairly heavy incoming fire in the next few days.

  9. Peter says:

    Can somebody link to the article that claims mainland police have infiltrated the HK police? I find this hard to believe, and honestly it sounds pretty counter productive to me.

  10. Scotty Dotty says:

    As Judge Litton implies, I also find it surreal how Hong Kong’s Police and CY and their Beijing puppetmasters see “rule of law” as suddenly so cool and essential. Of course they loathed rule of law when the British made it work so well in Hong Kong; oh the irony

    With rule of law you either have it or you don’t; you can’t faff around – ie, clear some streets, bring back rule of law there, but leave other streets without rule of law. Only a cretin could come up with this approach.

    Hong Kong really has gone to shit since the Chinese took over

  11. Yesler says:

    I have to think that if they were actually stuffing the HKPF with mainland goons, at least one of the many cops sympathetic to the protestors would leak that information. The unfortunate reality is that there are plenty of actual Hong Kong cops willing and able to follow orders. Further, the top brass has made sure that the PTU and other key units are staffed by those “trustworthy” officers.

  12. nulle says:

    Incredulous, here is what I think you need:

    According to a source close to the decision making officials in Peking, China Central Government established a dedicated headquarter in Shenzhen in the second half of 2013 to deal with the Occupy Central Movement and the “anti-China meddling Hong Kong” individuals. The key members of this HQ are the head of PLA Hong Kong Garrison, the members of Public Security of China (Gongan) and Ministry of State Security that have successfully penetrated into Hong Kong Police Force. The most shocking information from this source is that the PLA Hong Kong Garrison has already ordered thousands set of Hong Kong police uniform. The source said that if Occupy Central paralyses Central, the PLA will “sort out the chaos” dresses as Hong Kong police.

    Junior HK Police officiers are going to tow the party line and do the beating if they want to be promoted…

    to everyone, is it me or someone is doing a DOS against Hemlock since I am consistently getting “http 500 internal server error” posting comments…

  13. Incredulous says:

    Nulle. Thanks for the link. I knew I’d seen it somewhere…

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