Asking nicely for warnings about rule-of-law-shredding

Any more polite and it would be wanton groveling. Hong Kong’s Law Society respectfully asks the Chinese government to take a more consultative approach when the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress is going to discusses an ‘interpretation’ of the Basic Law. The lawyers say the current procedure can seem ‘rushed’.

Training and instinct require lawyers to use bland and moderate language as a matter of course. And presumably the Law Society includes some openly ‘patriotic’ members who would want a joint statement to Beijing to be suitably courteous. But this deferential tone also typifies what Christine Loh once called the ‘pre-emptive cringe’ – the perceived need to flagrantly kowtow to the Almighty Panda in order to assure it of your ‘sincerity’. (And increasingly worldwide, to avoid hurting its precious feelings. Australia is the latest victim of gratuitous Panda-worship, hurriedly bowing to Mainland conference delegates’ tantrums over Taiwanese.)

In plain non-obsequious English, an ‘interpretation’ of the Basic Law is actually an amendment, usually a detailed expansion. It is not based on such legal niceties as framers’ original intent, but is purely a quick rule-of-man fix, to plug what the Communist regime sees as an unacceptable loophole in the wording. Although formally delivered by the Standing Committee of the NPC, it is decided by the same one-party state structure as everything else in Chinese government.

To put it more bluntly, a Basic Law ‘interpretation’ is simply a re-writing of the law to reverse or pre-empt a local court ruling Beijing doesn’t like. It is so crude an expedient to override Hong Kong’s rule of law to ensure that the dictatorship has full control, that Beijing has so far used it relatively sparingly. Still, in the spirit of creeping Mainlandization, when it was last used, to bar localist lawmakers last year, it tossed local legal process aside with unprecedented contempt.

Because of the possibility of ‘interpretation’, none of us can truly be sure what any part of the Basic Law really means – because Beijing can change the meaning on a whim. While the words of the Basic Law seem to protect our individual liberty, property rights and other freedoms, Beijing can decree that the words mean anything else it chooses.

It is a panic button the Communist system can use without warning to cut off rule of law and judicial independence in the city. The Law Society is asking: ‘Could you please think about giving us a bit of warning when you do this, so maybe we can discuss it down here’.

I declare the weekend open with a coffee – freshly arrived in a big bag from a Djibouti connection. Aficionados of Mainland ‘fake Starbucks’ logos will be overjoyed to see the art form has spread to Ethiopia. A cup of ‘Dreadbucks’…

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11 Responses to Asking nicely for warnings about rule-of-law-shredding

  1. Regina's O Face says:

    Cue snivelling about getting better coffee in Stanley in 3..2..1..

  2. Raz Putin says:

    To see true shredding of the rule of law and human rights, just look at Britain after the general election when it leaves Europe or enjoy the latest edict from Planet Trump.

    Chinese Communists are neo-capitalist neo-feudalistic. Just like IBM, Google, Microsoft, Amazon…I guess you are just an apologist for them all.

    The terror is a capitalist terror. You are as usual barking up the wrong tree.

    The big comfort is that Hong Kong’s proletariat is expanding. Young people will mostly never join the bourgeoisie. That gives me hope.

  3. Laguna Lurker says:

    Georgie Peorgie is so narcissistic that, like Donald Trump, he never reads criticism directed at him. Like a kid, he leaves a bag of flaming poo on Hemlock’s doorstep and then runs away. If he happens across a comment that he dislikes, he simply ignores it and declines to respond.

  4. Most people would regard it as depressing that most of today’s young Hongkongers, unlike earlier generations, can never look forward to rising out of poverty. Georgie, however, regards this as a sign of hope.

  5. Chinese Netizen says:

    Mokusatsu, desu…

  6. Red Dragon says:

    See, l told you that the pudgy poseur is a sociopath. Not a humane bone in his body. Putrid individual.

    What a shame this comments section doesn’t have a block function. Frankly, I am sick to death of Adams’ daily stream of worthless bile. In almost all societies freedom of speech has its limits, and l would suggest that Adams is well beyond the pale, even for a liberal forum like this.

    Hemmers, the ball’s in your court.

  7. Knownot says:

    There was controversy when the Law Society endorsed the 2014 “white paper” asserting the People’s Republic’s “comprehensive jurisdiction” over HK. Some people thought they did so because many of the Society’s members, solicitors, also work over the border.

    Remembering that, it may be fair – not to draw attention to the preemptive cringe – but to notice that they have somewhat changed their position, and give them credit for it. “Don’t rush” really means “Don’t go too far.” In an appropriately oblique, between-the-lines manner, they are standing against the practice of freely “interpreting” the Basic Law. Perhaps someone up there will understand.

  8. LRE says:

    I think George is hoping to get some indentured servants for the Stanley house.

  9. reductio says:

    @Raz Putin
    Yes, I think Marx would be spinning in his grave if he were alive now and he saw “Communist” China. You’ve got that right. In fact I like reading Marx sometimes, the positive bits about what life is going to be when capitalism builds up the pressure so much that the revolution has to occur,but then the ensuing dictatorship of the proletariat will also fade away leaving us one grand community of non-nationalistic men and women, slaves (wage or otherwise) of no-one, not alienated from the fruits of our labour, and able to develop our potential in ways only truly free can do. Trouble is, as Bakhunin noted the proles will just morph into another ruling class, in fact into something worse, a throwback to the pre-capitalist feudal elite. Marx has some interesting insights and a beautiful vision of utopia, but how can it ever work? My own view is that we are best off following a soft-mash of capitalism with a dash of socialism, and steady on the theory (Chicago School, are you listening?).

  10. Joe Blow says:

    @reductio: while Bakhunin was right of course, sometimes a bloody revolution can be just what a society needs in order to avoid terminal decline. The USA at this moment would be a fine example. As John Steinbeck once observed: conservatism is the recipe of the rich and the stupid. The French didn’t do too badly, neither did the Russians and the Chinese, now that we can look back at it, and with an objective eye.

  11. What Marx didn’t foresee is how adaptive capitalism can be in giving way selectively to the proletariat while essentially keeping the underlying power structure unchanged. Couple that with new opiates to stupefy the people (“reality” TV) and selective amnesia (who remembers the events of 1968 in France?), and the bourgeoisie can still rest easy in their beds.

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