Our media have had a busy few days and are likely to be busy for the rest of the month and probably the next, first with nomination for candidature for the next chief executive having opened and would go on for two weeks, followed by the conviction of the seven policemen for assault of a common criminal, and most lately the conviction of Donald Tsang on one count of misconduct while in public office, with promises of more court dramas.
First, election of chief executive, or rather the race to the start line. Speculation is rife on who are being backed by whom and what, and specifically who has the sanction of Central Government, leading to questions on who is Central Government. With the pan-democrats holding more than 300 of the 1,200 or so tickets, they can rightly claim they are in a position to ensure that all four – forget about the fifth who is not even a joker – candidates would qualify to enter the race, which means they are more interested in the process than the results. More alarmingly though not surprisingly, they are not interested in the policy platform of the candidates nor who gets returned as chief executive. All they are interested perhaps is to plan how to bash the next chief and make his or her life as miserable as possible in the next five years, which is not the best recipe for economic progress or a harmonious society.
Now, Hong Kong used to boast an effective executive led government run by a professional civil service and backed up by an independent judiciary, both being hailed as pillars of Hong Kong. In the past five years, however, nothing seemed to be moving. Government policies were repeatedly and consistently being frustrated by immature politicians and clumsy executives. The Police were put in a most difficult and dare I say an impossible situation, having to face increasingly violent and unreasonably uncooperative but professionally trained and highly organized activists, with inadequate manpower and support from their colleagues in the law department and their legal fraternity, which brings me to the next issue, the unfortunate seven.
Without putting too fine a point on it, law is a very blunt instrument for conflict resolution. It takes ages to change the law or to make the law in tune with a community and the average members of the public whose rights it professes to protect. The late Lord Denning (or Baron Denning rather) had famously said that when the law is defective, it should be repaired. Such repair would require a resolute and strong legal department (which is an arm of the executive government) working in harmony with an understanding and compassionate legislature and in consultation with an impartial and dispassionate judiciary. When all conditions are in place, justice and good order would follow.
Alas, what we have seen in the past five years are as follows. We have a frail and timid legal department which is slow to take to Court those who incited violence and public disorder but quick to bring to justice law enforcement officers who breached their protocol due to long and extended working hours, public provocation and humiliation, and unprecedented situations. We also have a judiciary too keen to interpret the law as they find it and blind to public sentiments, which I hasten to add however are how they should behave in a jurisdiction which professes to observe the rule of law. Meanwhile, society activists and agitators are quick to take advantage of the situation and have successfully escalated their violence and antics, knowing full well that they would be let off lightly or would never be taken to task. I invite anyone to cast their eyes to the United States, to UK, to Singapore and other advanced democracies in the West. Nowhere would allow such things happen.
I would like to see the next chief executive to instruct his or her Justice Secretary to direct the legal department to precipitate immediate and prompt legal action to bring to court all law breakers and violence perpetrators, beginning with those involved in inciting Occupy Central and Mongkok riots, in other words, the likes of Benny Tai etc. It doesn’t matter whether the judges would convict them. If the Prosecution do that often enough and with sufficient resolve, it would send the right and a positive signal to the public. More importantly, he must change the law. As our late very learned Denning had said, “If we never do anything which has never been done before, we shall never get anywhere. The law will stand still while the rest of the world goes on, and that will be bad for both.” I have heard that a reason why the government lawyers are slow to prosecute those offenders is that they want to keep their career records clean and they are reluctant to be at odds with members of their legal fraternity, for one day they could become judges or on the other side. But such considerations ought not come into the picture in a truly effective and executive led government.
I come to the Donald Tsang issue. He is a friend. We went to the same school, read the same bible, went to the same church and worked in the same department. What can one say? It proves that the law and the rule of law is alive and well in Hong Kong. It proves that nobody is above the law. Then again, I don’t think that such petty matters would have ever come before the court in most countries, not in China, not in UK and certainly not in the United States.
I hope to talk to you again soon.