HK separation-of-powers clarification

More light is shed on the Great Hong Kong Separation-of-Powers Mass-Bemusement of 2015 as Chief Executive CY Leung and Mainland academic Rao Geping seek to clarify Beijing official Zhang Xiaoming’s comments on the city’s constitutional arrangements. In other words, if you weren’t already confused, you will be now.

CY announces – in essence – that Hong Kong ‘is a local government, and therefore not in a broad sense a government’…


Compared with which, Rao can only be a pillar of critical thinking. But he still seems to tie himself in knots explaining what Hong Kong does have, in the absence of separation of powers. He describes it as ‘mutual check and balance and cooperation’ of powers ‘under the leadership of the executive’…


Montesquieu’s brain explodes.

Part of the problem seems to be terminology. Beijing’s apologists seem worried about what we call things (and what we think they might mean – not some nasty foreign thing) rather than what is actually going on out there. The South China Morning Post quotes CY as assuring us that when Zhang said the Chief Executive ‘transcends’ the three powers, he did not mean ‘overrides’. Obviously, we are supposed to say: ‘Ah – OK, got it’.

But we don’t. The SCMP has a go at explaining why Beijing is so insistent that we wise up, concluding that it is a reaction to things like nativism and defiance of CY…


This is no doubt true so far as it goes, but of course nativism and defiance of CY are themselves reactions to Beijing’s creeping intrusion in Hong Kong affairs. It’s a chicken-and-egg situation. Which came first: the ungrateful and untrustworthy foreign-influenced rabble threatening Communist Party rule, or the mouth-frothing paranoiacs tightening their Leninist grip?

We have elections on the way. There are growing signs that even the most loathsome shoe-shiners are getting sick of CY. And we have constant tension over Mainland shoppers, lead in water, the Avenue of Stars, and on and on. It hardly seems a great time to angrily regurgitate illogicalities about how Hong Kong can’t have an independent judiciary in theory, though it’s OK in practice. But with Xi Jinping’s witch-hunts, stock-market suspensions, chemical explosions, lawyer arrests, church-cross demolition and general freaking-out in full swing, is any time a good time? Best assume that this is not simply about us.

Rao Geping stresses that Hong Kong’s non-use and inability to have separation of powers is related to the fact that it is not a sovereign country. Beijing officials also sometimes use this as a reason why the city can’t have democracy. In both cases, it’s blatantly incorrect, but it gives us an idea of what he is actually trying to say: as a one-party state, China cannot have separation of powers, so a mere administrative region certainly cannot either.

In other words, this whole fuss is not about what Hong Kong can have, but what the entire one-party People’s Republic of China cannot/must not have.

Why can’t these idiots just spit it out? Because, perhaps, deep down – maybe only subliminally – they find it awkward and humiliating to openly acknowledge the true nature of the one-party system. A form of government in which the leaders can survive only through absolute, terrified, obsessive control is, let’s admit it, pretty pathetic.

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10 Responses to HK separation-of-powers clarification

  1. Stephen says:

    Totally correct it is pretty pathetic. I find it more cringe worthy when obviously bright people like Rimsky try to contort their bureaucratic minds in an attempt to give credibility to the inane statements from card carrying cadres like CCP Y Leung and his liaison office chum / de-facto boss. Now that the national economy seems set for a “correction” and hence, the CCP’s ‘mandate’ to bring prosperity under threat, will we now see more ugly nationalism ? We’ve had the parade, perhaps now some more Chinese lead, this time fired toward Vietnam.

  2. Laguna Lurker says:

    I love the illustration to its article “WHY BEIJING IS laying down the law”, provided by the SCMP. Anyone with a modicum of engineering knowledge will instantly see that the four gear wheels—presumably representing Beijing and the three branches of HK Government—are intractably locked in conflict with no chance of working together to achieve any kind of movement. Priceless! An editorial head will surely roll.

  3. Qian Jin says:

    Don’t you agree some pinyin names can sound so quaint in English?
    The name “Rao Geping” rather suggests the likes of the Hollywood Latino stars such as Ramon Novarro, Rudolph Valentino and Raul Julia; with their talents perhaps all rolled into one. These three stars all had hooded eyes and were pretty good at dancing the tango. Although it takes two, do you think Rao might put on a decent swirl if the music were only right?

  4. PD says:

    So CEs are not emperors, evil ghost governors were, and CEs are largely filling the role of the governors?

    And Hong Kong “is (or maybe is not) a… government”, in the same way as China IS a government?

    And finally California and Scotland don’t enjoy separation of powers because they’re not independent (sorry, the word just slipped out)?

    Clear as mud now.

    PS Tons of bricks risk falling on your head from lurking trolls, Hemlock, for daring to suggest that Peking might possibly be a little fearful.

  5. Cassowary says:

    Remember when Old Man Tung and the rotating cast of Officials Upstairs used to insist that Hong Kong has an “executive-led government”? Nobody knew what that meant either, but they seem to have given up on it because they realized it sounded embarrassing in a system with this much gridlock.

    I expect all this means that Hong Kong runs on fairy dust. It only works as long as you believe in it and don’t think about it too hard. Just like how the PRC and the ROC both are and are not the same singular China.

  6. Nimby says:

    Well, so much for peaceful reunification with Taiwan.

  7. Qian Jin says:

    @ PD : “.. CEs are largely filling the role of the governors?”

    You got it……. at last !

    In 1984 that’s all what was promised.

    What’s the problem?

  8. Joe Blow says:

    This is the second major blunder Zhang presided over this year. I have a feeling he may be out of a job even before 689 himself.

  9. Scotty Dotty says:

    Hemmers is surely right. At heart Peking is a deeply pathetic, childlike, system of governance. Simply one bunch of corrupt thieves after another. Until Zhongnanhai trusts in the talent of their own people they’ll never mature. In fact, to paraphrase the criticism of Tony Benn, it seems China has perfected the art of immaturing with age.

    @ Laguna Lurker – ha ha, good one! Now you mention it, yes, completely dysfunctional gearing graphic.

    @ Qian Jin – in a musical vane today! Jolly good, although Peking shoeshiners are not meant to display their bourgeois excess so openly?

  10. pie-chucker says:

    Qian Jin > Best not mention 1984. Change history to 1986 or something. Less prescient, spooky.

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