Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Legal Smackdown

Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma spoke out, telling people to read the Basic Law
Thank you Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li!

Thank you for setting the record straight once and for all about the status of Hong Kong's chief executive.

Today Ma made a legal smackdown hours after Leung Chun-ying's comments that the chief executive "is indeed transcendent", giving the impression that he has an emperor-like status.

One wonders if Leung has indeed been hanging out at Government House with a crown on his head.

While the chief justice said he was not going to comment on "things which have recently been said" or on other people's comments on what he said in the past, he did say: "But I wish to emphasize two points, both in relation to the Basic Law," Ma said. "The first point is judicial independence. This is specified in the Basic Law in three separate places and I would ask people to read articles 2, 19 and 85."

CY Leung will have to re-think his "transcendent" status
He went on: "The second point deals with equality before the law, and this is Article 25 of the Basic law, which prescribes that everybody is equal before the law, without exception. This applies to everyone."

And what does Article 25 of the Basic Law say? "... all Hong Kong residents shall be equal before the law".

So there. Leung can take off his crown now. The ermine robes have to go too.

In Article 2, Beijing's legislature authorizes Hong Kong "to exercise a high degree of autonomy and enjoy executive, legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication".

Finally Article 19 reiterates that Hong Kong "shall be vested with independent judicial power", while Article 85 states that Hong Kong courts "shall exercise judicial power independently, free from any interference. Members of the judiciary shall be immune from legal action in the performance of their judicial functions."

Again we have to ask -- why did Zhang Xiaoming, head of the liaison office, say what he did on Saturday?

Legally his speech was completely out of line and we hope Ma's clarification will end any more speculation of the chief executive's status.

Today on Commercial Radio, James Tien Pei-chun, honorary chairman of the Liberal Party, urged Zhang to clarify what he meant five days ago.

James Tien thinks Beijing is still trying to assert authority
The last five days have been a verbal circus, because having others like Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung and Leung himself trying to explain Zhang's comments is like watching a dog chase its tail.

"Zhang read his speech carefully that day," says Tien. "It seemed to me it was pre-written by Beijing and he was only responsible for reading that out. Perhaps Beijing feels the hearts of Hong Kong people are still not with the country, years since the [1997] handover. That's why they are doing this to assert 'one country'." he said.

If Tien's speculation is true, then Beijing still does not understand how Hong Kong operates and what its people are thinking. For China to think locals will automatically demonstrate unwavering patriotism -- when many of them escaped the Communists in 1949 and onwards -- is naive thinking.

And trying to assert its power over the city is just making things worse.

But in the meantime, high fives to Ma -- the smackdown was just what the doctor ordered.

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