Beijing bans rule of law in HK, few notice

Hongkongers of a frail and nervous disposition swoon in disbelief as China’s top official in Bloom-ChinaOfficialtown declares that constitutional separation of powers does not apply in the city, and that the Chief Executive is superior to the legislature and judiciary. Those who are hardened and numbed to decades of Communist apparatchiks’ Tremble-and-Obey outbursts perhaps roll their eyes and wonder ‘what is it now?’

Let’s remind ourselves that the whole ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle is a logical impossibility. Free markets and a pluralistic society, and their prerequisites like rule of law and a free press, are incompatible with a Communist one-party state that must control everything. For these freedoms to exist in China means the end of the CCP’s monopoly of power, means not-going-to-happen.

(Analysts pondering the direction of Beijing’s future economic reforms can include full freedom of cross-border capital flows or of domestic capital allocation in the list of impossibilities. The regime can co-exist with such economic anarchy in Hong Kong because the Mainland is caged off from it, and it has its uses. Political control over Hong Kong is another matter.)

Officials in a Leninist structure suffer an extreme, almost allergic, reaction to the concept of separation of powers. Their angry insistence that the idea is not applicable in a Chinese/Socialist/etc context seems a case of protesting too much. The way Communist ‘people’s democracies’ superficially emulate legislative, executive and judicial divisions in their quasi-constitutions suggests a subliminal recognition (or envy?) of the integrity of checks and balances compared with totalitarian and primitive ‘rule of man’.

So it’s a touchy subject. And Beijing’s officials have spluttered and ranted about it in Hong Kong before. It is not that Hong Kong’s separation of powers undermines Communist Party sovereignty; the Basic Law limits the legislature’s influence and allows Beijing to override the courts through ‘interpretation’. The problem seems to be frustration with local people’s inability or refusal to keep up as Beijing clarifies the reality of the post-1997 arrangement: namely that it really means ‘One Country, and One System that encloses a Subsidiary System for Hong Kong’.

Liaison Office boss Zhang Xiaoming’s comments came at a conference marking the 25th anniversary of the Basic Law. He said the Chief Executive, being accountable to both Hong Kong and Beijing, has a position above all three branches in the city’s government. I get a ‘been here before’ flash. Yes, it sounds like the Catholic Church’s line on the Holy Trinity, as I understood it in convent school many years ago: it makes sense if you accept sacred mysteries that can’t – to you – make sense.


Hong Kong Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen seems to back me up here. He tells Xinhua that the Basic Law ‘cannot be observed and interpreted from a single perspective’. This raises SCMP-ItHasToBethe possibility that Beijing’s officials can and do sometimes view it from Hong Kong’s perspective, which is unlikely; or that they do not ‘observe and interpret it’, which is probably a requirement of the job.

Are Zhang’s statements aimed at his bosses in Beijing, while Rimsky’s are aimed at a local and international audience? Clumsy – but the fact that both come through official channels suggest that they were coordinated. Maybe the Liaison Office needs to convince its bosses in Beijing that Operation Hong Kong-into-Tibet is rolling forward with great success, while Rimsky is reassuring the rest of us that it’s business as usual and the courts are still essentially independent.

Stan-IpeasesIt’s no use asking anyone else. Pro-establishment lawmaker Regina Ip points out that the courts are still independent – implying that Zhang’s remarks can respectfully be ignored – while pro-democrats express shock and horror in a way that last convincingly spread alarm in, maybe, the 1990s.

All we know is that the co-existence of these two systems within the same sovereign state is a life-or-death imperative for Hong Kong, yet a constitutional impossibility for the CCP. Hong Kong has to assume (or pretend) it exists and does work, while Beijing’s officials have to deny it is there at all. It would be too insular to see this as about how free Hong Kong fits into Communist China; it’s about how Beijing’s one-party state fits into the 21st Century world. Just another day in the great ‘contradiction’, and Hong Kong is at the sharp end of it.

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13 Responses to Beijing bans rule of law in HK, few notice

  1. Joe Blow says:

    Zhang has been in fear of losing his job ever since the Great Legco Walkout Fiasco Disaster. So yes, this is squarely aimed at his boss-clique.

  2. Stephen says:

    Will we be receiving the news this week that Former CE Sir Donald Tsang has no case to answer in allegations that he took bribes ?

  3. LRE says:

    I suspect it’s part of the ongoing cold war between the Liaison Office versus the HKMAO. Asserting that the CE is above all else means the Liaison Office is really Queen, and the HKMAO can get stuffed with all their talking to the pan-dems.

    Hong Kongers tend to believe (understandably) that CCP proclamations on Hong Kong are something to do with Hong Kong. But for the CCP membership and bureaucracy, Hong Kong per se is almost completely irrelevant much of the time, and these sorts of moves are used merely as a pretext for the far greater, more noble struggle for power and influence within the CCP. Hong Kong, tractor output, steel output, GDP — these are just the interchangeable minutiae – the prize is power and influence.

    And if we’re talking the reality of the post-1997 arrangement, I believe the correct terminology is de facto “two countries, one system”. We have borders, a different language and need visas, but Beijing has ultimate control over us all. Plus ca change…

  4. Knownot says:

    You’re the top!
    You’re Golden Week.
    You’re the top!
    You’re Victoria Peak.
    You’re a poem from the works of Chairman Mao.
    You’re the Mandarin.
    You’re a tiger skin.
    You’re a holy cow.
    You’re an electric car.
    You’re Pacific Place.
    You’re the brightest star in outer space.
    I’m a worthless cheque, a total wreck, a flop,
    But if, CY, I’m the bottom, you’re the top!

    You’re the top!
    You’re the high-speed rail.
    You’re the top!
    You’re an alpha male.
    You’re a photo from the files of Edison Chen.
    You’re a Kobe steak.
    You’re a wedding cake.
    You’re a Typhoon Number 10.
    You’re a Rolls Royce.
    You’re real chop suey.
    You’re the voice of Anita Mui.
    I’m a worthless cheque …

    You’re the top!
    You’re the Great Wall.
    You’re the top!
    You’re City Hall.
    You’re a Chinese Imperial Court Dog.
    You’re Bauhinia Square.
    You’re a first-class fare.
    You’re Big Lychee’s blog.
    You’re the top!
    You’re a great tycoon.
    You’re the top!
    You’re the fourth of June.
    (I meant to say
    The fourth of May.)
    You’re a true success.
    You’re a great Big Bang.
    You’re the loveliest dress in Shanghai Tang.
    I’m a total loss,
    And CY, you’re the boss!

    Lyrics by Cole Porter and Another

  5. Scotty Dotty says:

    Doubtful Zhang really thought that deeply on what he said.

    Just another reaction to Xi’s insistence that Peking elites and their local shoeshiners bolster CY ahead of 2017. The overarching narrative is “Oh yes we are going to reappoint CY…” and you can say or do anything to that end.

    Anyway, Zhang is simply saying out loud what Peking has thought since the 1980s – their Man in Hong Kong gets to run the place in their image, forget all this namby pamby crap about rule of law and civilised societies.

  6. ElFlaco says:

    Love, love Regina’s typical response: trust & obey Beijing, just don’t take seriously a word they say.

  7. pensadora says:

    Those are Knownot’s best ever lyrics yet! What a wit, he ought to write a Cole Porter-type musical for the next International Arts Festival to tickle Hongkongers’ ribs and shake up the Beijing geriatrics

  8. Cassowary says:

    Hey well, if you want to take Zhang literally, CY could overrule Legco and singlehandedly declare that wretched constitutional reform package the law tomorrow. He supersedes all three branches of government, doncherknow? Faster than a speeding Lau Wong Fat, more powerful than a horde of irate students, able to make impossible leaps of logic in a single bound, it’s Superdouche!

  9. Tiu Fu Fong says:

    In other news, CCP looks at the uncertain economic and political future and decides to follow the post-Soviet Russian lessons of selling off of SOE wealth to party members and cronies.

    “China has unveiled its plan to restructure its mammoth state enterprise sector, including partial privatisation, as data pointed to a cooling in the world’s second-largest economy.”

  10. Nimby says:

    They are pretty good a sucking up, ignoring the plight of their fellow travelers on the other side of the boarder, etc; but the largest underground political party in Hong Kong could have told you long ago that the “rule of law” in Hong Kong was and is a fiction. It’s been “rule by law”.

    Oh, that underground political party isn’t the CCP, nor is it the KMT, but they have plenty of members within CY Leung’s camp. Can you guess who it is?

  11. Laguna Lurker says:

    @Nimby: Might you be referring to the “New Righteousness and Peace Commercial and Industrial Guild” (AKA the Sun Yee On)?

  12. Nimby says:

    Laguna Lurker, The @ sign is superfluous.

    The Sun Yee On are a peanut size gang, even less influential than the Hung Yee Crooks, and no where in the league with these bastards as you will see:

    I’m referring to the Baptist Church & associated Evangelicals. In Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Baptist (and Evangelical) Vestry have learned a lot about gamesmanship from the Catholic Church/Ndrangheta locally & the Mormon Mafia overseas, the threat from the later in HK in the last 30 years really pushed the Baptist to step up their game. There is considerable concerted effort to help local vestry and legacy members get into positions of power, particularly where government spending is largest: IE: Medical, Education and Social Services, and where protection for those rackets can be secured: ie: HKPD CI Branch & ICAC, as well as political parties such as the DAB.

    It’s been interesting to watch them and the Catholic/Episcopal mafias jockey their pieces around in the corrupt shell game known as Government, sometimes cooperating for mutal interest, sometimes fighting tooth in nail. To an outside observer thought the rise of the Baptists mostly been to the detriment of the lower classes, as the later mafia at least went a bit beyond mouthing Christian principles of caring for the poor, the former are big on “Prosperity Gospel”. The Baptist in particular believe things like free public education make people lazy and are the gift to the devil. That and they usually are racist.

    Hence Eddie Ng’s underhanded and profitable efforts to undermine public education for the benefit of his privatization friends make him feel he’s doing “God’s Work”. Much the same goes for Dr. Ko Wing Man and a veritable host of others, spreading like cancer inside the government organs.

  13. Nimby says:

    Eddie is doing his best to cut costs and make HK and unwelcoming place for non-mainland immigrants.

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