Just time for Hong Kong to squeeze in a little more Mainlandization before the New Year festivities.
A court rules that civil servants can bar a candidate from the ballot provided their telepathic induction is augmented with ‘cogent, clear and compelling’ evidence that the individual would not uphold the Basic Law. The judge also says the would-be candidates should have a reasonable opportunity to respond. This leaves a little wiggle-room for future cases, but misses the fundamental question of whether to disagree with a law is the same as planning not to uphold it.
Another court rejects an attempt by Occupy leaders to throw out ‘incitement to incite public nuisance’ charges against them. This is probably no bad thing. The prosecutions are clearly political and aimed at high-profile individuals, and the action has been dragged out for years; the more ludicrous the charges, the more despotic the government looks. If Beijing was smart, its officials would nudge the local administration into dropping this no-win mess. Depending on final verdicts/sentences, either the government or the judiciary must come out of this with (further) tarnished reputations.
Meanwhile, prosecutors seek to add more incitement charges in the cases against another group of activists.
The never-ending stream of legal cases aimed at punishing opposition or rigging elections is numbing – this is what the whole thing looks like.
The deterioration of rule of law is one-way, and local officials and judges with a conscience are ultimately powerless to resist it – Beijing is now prepared to override any administrative or legal obstacles through Basic Law ‘interpretation’ or other devices.
One big line to cross will be the criminalization of opinion, whether through Article 23 national security laws or some sort of Beijing edict. It would start with a ban on calls for Hong Kong independence, then extend to calls for the overthrow of the Communist Party. Such restriction of freedom of expression (currently limited to flag-desecration and imminent national anthem laws) would imply formal censorship of some sort.
Also inevitable: measures to curb the influence of foreign judges in Hong Kong courts, which is already coming in Macau. It’s probably only a matter of time before lawyers who defend opposition figures start coming under greater pressure.
The suppression has already started. The authorities are penalizing stock analysts for disrespectful opinions of Mainland companies, and short-sellers say they are avoiding Hong Kong because of fears for their safety (as are, I hear, some corporate investigators). First they came for the scumbags, and I did not speak out…
To prepare for a gloomy Dog Year, I foresee tomorrow probably being a goof-off, so declare the four-day weekend a five-day one – and open.