Judges ‘no longer protecting subjects’ liberty’

Jonathan Sumption, one of the UK judges to recently resign from the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal, writes in the FT about his reasons for quitting…

The Basic Law … expressly authorises Legco to reject the budget, and provides that if it does so twice, the chief executive must resign.

Nonetheless, the High Court decided that rejecting the budget was not a permissible means of putting pressure on the chief executive to change his policies … The result is that Legco cannot exercise an express constitutional right for a purpose unwelcome to the government. Putting a plan to do this before the electorate was branded a criminal conspiracy.

…the decision is symptomatic of a growing malaise in the Hong Kong judiciary … But they have to operate in an impossible political environment created by China.

…Pro-democracy media have been closed down by police action. Their editors are on trial for sedition. Campaign groups have been disbanded and their leaders arrested.

…There are continual calls for judicial “patriotism”. It requires unusual courage for local judges to swim against such a strong political tide. Unlike the overseas judges, they have nowhere else to go.

Intimidated or convinced by the darkening political mood, many judges have lost sight of their traditional role as defenders of the liberty of the subject, even when the law allows it. There are guarantees of freedom of speech and assembly in both the Basic Law and the National Security Law, but only lip-service is ever paid to them. The least sign of dissent is treated as a call for revolution. Hefty jail sentences are dished out to people publishing “disloyal” cartoon books for children, or singing pro-democracy songs, or organising silent vigils for the victims of Tiananmen Square.

HKFP story with more background here.

The government’s response, dated 1.55 am, comprises some 25 paragraphs and goes over most of Lord Sumption’s points one by one…

…the Court of First Instance held that … Indiscriminate vetoing of the Government’s budget and public expenditure proposals, in order to compel the Government to accede to political demands and force the Chief Executive to dissolve the Legislative Council and ultimately resign … amounted to … offence of subversion of State power.  

…Real threats to the independent exercise of judicial power currently faced by the HKSAR courts indeed come from foreign government officials, politicians and political organisations, including blatant attempts to interfere with ongoing legal proceedings, and the despicable threats to impose so-called “sanctions” against judges…

…During the Hong Kong version of “colour revolution” in 2019, massive riots and violence occurred incessantly. Shops and public facilities were vandalised, set on fire and destroyed. Terrorist activities intimidated the community. People expressing opinions different with that of the black-clad mobsters would be intimidated, doxxed and beaten up.

 Any responsible government facing the same chaos experienced by Hong Kong in 2019 would take decisive action to curb the insurrection and violence in order to safeguard national security and protect the rights and freedoms of its citizens. Lord Sumption’s claim that the ordinary laws of Hong Kong were perfectly adequate for dealing with the riots is in total disregard of the actual situation of the insurrection.

It even mentions mega-events. RTHK summary here.

HKFP op-ed explores all the ways the HK47’s primary elections could have led to a constitutional crisis, and finds none. After overcoming numerous hurdles, including their re-election to LegCo, the 47 could at most have brought about another CE ‘election’. Yet the judges convicted those found guilty for plotting a ‘constitutional crisis’, with ‘dire consequences’ and a ‘paralysing effect on the operations of the Government’.

Stephen Roach’s remarks at the FCC last week…

[When I first visited Hong Kong in the 1980s] China was just beginning to stir, and this city was perfectly positioned as a major beneficiary of what turned into the world’s greatest development miracle. It all worked out brilliantly, lasting longer than anyone expected. And now, as I wrote last February in the Financial Times, it’s over.

Harsh words, I know. Take them more as a metaphor than an epitaph. So, what’s really over?  What’s over, in my opinion, is the imagery that many still cling to in looking to the future of a prideful city—Asia’s world city, Milton Friedman’s favorite free market. The Hong Kong of old is not the Hong Kong of today, and especially not the Hong Kong of tomorrow. The title of my article was intended as a wake-up call, an appeal for you in Hong Kong to come to grips with this seemingly harsh realization.

Any city-state economy – old Venice, modern-day Singapore, Dubai – thrives by providing a location for activities that for whatever reasons don’t take place in its surrounding jurisdictions. Without demand in the hinterland for spices or money-laundering services, it is just a dot on the map. Even when Hong Kong boomed as an apparently isolated (from the Mainland) manufacturing base in the 50s and 60s, it relied on an influx of Mainland industrialists and workers (as well as sanctions-busting cross-border trade). All Roach is saying is that Hong Kong can only do as well as the Mainland, which is now looking at a long period of relative stagnation, and the city needs to accept it and adjust.

Aside from the usual NatSec-era oversensitivity, perhaps the Hong Kong officials have reacted badly to Roach’s basic point because they know it is true. Tam Yiu-chung, quoted in Ta Kung Pao (in Chinese), accuses Roach of ‘smearing One Country, Two Systems’. Regina Ip complains

…Roach’s remarks betray the same shallowness and short-termism as befit a stockbroker, writing off investments when the going gets tough.

It is true that Hong Kong is facing some tough economic headwinds because of geopolitical uncertainty and structural problems. But its future is bright, because Hong Kong is working hard to restructure its economy.

But is it? All we see is officials trying to resurrect yesterday’s industries, from mass-tourism to the container port to the real-estate scam. The best transition Reg can point to is a merging of Hong Kong with the rest of the Pearl River Delta, which doesn’t really suggest a new special role so much as evaporation of the old ones. (This is before factoring in concerns over rule of law, etc.)

Local officials and pro-government figures’ inability to respond calmly and confidently to criticism reflects their inability to accept that the old boom days are over.

Pic of the day: students at a Taipei high school repurpose the campus’s statue of Chiang Kai-shek.

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5 Responses to Judges ‘no longer protecting subjects’ liberty’

  1. Chinese Netizen says:

    They’re actually just simply called…”sanctions”.

  2. Mark Bradley says:

    Better late than never with regards to Sumption. I am glad he stated that the HK47 conviction is legally indefensible. That has weight coming from a ex-CFA Judge. Of course I don’t agree with his lame view that cowardly judges should be protected from “crude” US sanctions. The fact that he is saying it means he is nervous.

    Also we all know the reason he resigned was due to that embarrassing expose on how much overseas judges are compensated by the HK judiciary done by an NGO and how they lend legitimacy to a brutal regime.

    I have lost most of my respect for Judges. They are the same cocksuckers who enabled Mussolini to take away people’s rights and establish a rule by law regime instead of doing the right thing. FUCK EM!!!!!

    Journalists are far more honourable and they usually are the first to be brutalised by these nasty regimes.

  3. Stanley Lieber says:

    “The HK government expressed its strong disagreement with Sumption’s comments in a lengthy statement Tuesday. It insisted the city’s courts are not under any political pressure from Chinese authorities or the local government when handling cases, and said the rule of law in the financial hub has not declined.”

    When someone says they feel something, whether it be pressure, pleasure or whatever, it is not something that can be argued with. They feel it, therefore it is real. If Sumption says judges feel the pressure, then they do. It’s inarguable.

  4. Joe 90 says:

    From Sumpton’s FT piece:
    “An oppressive atmosphere is generated by the constant drumbeat from a compliant press, hardline lawmakers, government officers and China Daily, the mouthpiece of the Chinese government. A chorus of outrage follows rare decisions to grant bail or acquit. There are continual calls for judicial “patriotism”. It requires unusual courage for local judges to swim against such a strong political tide. Unlike the overseas judges, they have nowhere else to go.”

    Were these claims rebuked?

  5. Mark Bradley says:

    @Joe90 No not at all. Unless you think the government doing lip service reply of “the government doesn’t put political pressure on the Judiciary” is a valid rebuke. The government’s response was utterly unconvincing. And now these fucking idiots are trotting out the “Judges don’t understand politics” line. Cunts.

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