Is Jonathan Sumption the new Stephen Roach?

The government and its supporters could refrain from making too much of ex-Court of Final Appeal judge Lord Sumption’s harsh words about rule of law in Hong Kong. But, if the fuss over Stephen Roach’s straightforward economic analysis is anything to go by, they are more likely to dwell on it. Responses from the Chief Justice and legal bodies here. Ronny Tong here – uses the word ‘philological’.

The Chief Executive doesn’t have much choice when answering questions from the press. He comes prepared with a sort-of ‘gotcha’ – in the form of Sumption’s Times article three years ago saying that ‘although Hong Kong did not have democracy while under colonial rule, its rule of law was maintained by judges’. John Lee also says judges should focus on the law, which is their area of expertise, not on politics.

It’s unlikely that Sumption will entertain the opportunity of a Roach-style public debate with the Hong Kong establishment. But if he did, he could suggest that maybe one or two things have happened in the last three years to convince him to change his mind. (He specifically called out the judiciary for its HK47 convictions.) And he might say that John Lee, as someone who has spent most of his career as a cop, is hardly an expert in politics (or economics for that matter). He could even stress his point that the intrusion of politics into the rule of law is the whole problem. 

That issue isn’t going away. Prosecutors close their arguments in the Jimmy Lai case, and the defence are preparing to argue that Lai has no case to answer. The authorities might want to prepare for more resignations of overseas judges.

Some other reading…

In the Diplomat, Eric and Anouk Wear look at recent arrests and other measures by Hong Kong authorities ahead of the June 4 anniversary…

Few places in the world police collective memory and art with this degree of rigor. How has this occurred in Hong Kong, which until recently ranked high for free expression?

…[Xi Jinping’s concept of] “cultural security” … is an extremely vague and ambiguous concept of “national security,” which can be applied to arts and culture without any of the safeguards necessary to ensure that a state is in compliance with international human rights standards.

Hong Kong Secretary for Security Chris Tang spoke of art as “soft resistance” and called artistic expression a  “common modus operandi of those seeking to endanger national security.” Similarly, Chief Executive John Lee asked everyone to tell a “good story” of Hong Kong and has defended purging the city’s libraries of books containing “bad ideologies.”

Vague and ambiguous statements such as these encourage de-platforming and freelance censorship in the private sector. Creative artists protect themselves by self-censoring, steering away from politics and social reflection.

…By snipping off any buds of reflective discourse or “wrong” memory, society is channeled into narrowly productive ends. Those who can’t come to terms with this will either flee or find themselves harassed or in custody, as people in Hong Kong who seek to commemorate the Tiananmen Square Massacre have experienced.

The Hongkonger on how Hong Kong NatSec police recruit informants and find ways to pressure dissidents overseas.

Five years after the 2019 protests, RFA interviews Hongkongers in exile – many with bounties on their heads.

And AFP talks to Hong Kong novelists in exile.

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8 Responses to Is Jonathan Sumption the new Stephen Roach?

  1. Lavrentiy Beria says:

    “Judges are experts in law, and should leave politics to the police.”

  2. Erich Mielke says:

    „Politics should be left to the National Security Police“

  3. Psycho Wong says:

    PK Tang has cancelled the passports of Nathan Law and 5 other absconders. Another “good story” about Hong Kong. Oh man, all that goodness.

  4. Load Toad says:

    ‘…[Xi Jinping’s concept of] “cultural security” … is an extremely vague and ambiguous concept of “national security,” which can be applied to arts and culture without any of the safeguards necessary to ensure that a state is in compliance with international human rights standards.’

    I don’t know what is so hard for international commentators to understand:
    – ‘They’ don’t care about human rights standards
    – The Laws are vague on purpose

  5. wmjp says:

    PK Tang has cancelled the passports of Nathan Law and 5 other absconders.

    So how can they possibly de-abscond without a passport?

    Abduction I guess…

  6. MC says:

    Talking of “wrong memory”, as quoted here yesterday:

    “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.”

  7. HKJC Irregular says:

    @Lord Toad – Yes, but they are commenting to a foreign audience, so perhaps there’s a need to spell it out subtly while trying to appear “balanced”

  8. Joe 90 says:

    @MC,

    We know they are telling lies. They know we know they are telling lies. We know that they know that we know they are telling lies. They know that we know that they know…

    It’s gaslighting, all the way down.

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