The lack of democracy, not the Occupy protest movement, is undermining the rule of law in Hong Kong, a Canadian public policy think tank said.
The Fraser Institute, which has ranked the territory as the world’s freest economy since 1970, said unless the Hong Kong people exercise genuine universal suffrage, the city’s judicial system will remain under Beijing’s influence, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported on Friday.
“If the chief executive is not elected by universal suffrage, mainland China could affect judicial independence in the city and the world ranking of the city in rule of law,” Fred McMahon, a resident fellow of the institute, was quoted as saying.
Stressing the vital importance of allowing the people to choose their leader, McMahon said the city’s chief justice is nominated by a committee named by the chief executive. And if, under China’s political reform framework, Beijing will choose the candidates to the chief executive election, then it will also influence the choice of chief justice, a situation that will continue to have a great impact on the rule of law in the city, he said.
McMahon’s remarks came amid statements from Hong Kong officials that the ongoing Occupy Movement is underming the rule of law as protesters defy court injunctions against their continued occupation of major streets in the city.
But McMahon is not very much concerned about the adverse impact of the protest. “The damage to the rule of law by the Occupy Central movement would only be short-term as similar cases are happening around the world,” he said.
He urged China to keep its promise and respect the “one country, two systems” principle that guides its relationship with the special administrative region.
Hong Kong has consistently topped the Fraser Institute’s Freedom of the World index, which measures the degree to which the policies and institutions of countries are supportive of economic freedom.
It scored 8.98 points in the 2012 rankings, followed by Singapore at 8.54 points. “There is still some distance for Singapore to catch up with Hong Kong,” McMahon said.
The territory, however, only ranked 23rd in the sub-categories of legal system and property rights, the report said.
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