27 October 2016
In the spirit of decolonization, is it really appropriate for CY Leung to reside in Government House where all his colonial predecessors lived? Photo: HKEJ, Xinhua
In the spirit of decolonization, is it really appropriate for CY Leung to reside in Government House where all his colonial predecessors lived? Photo: HKEJ, Xinhua

HK dying a slow death by selective decolonization

I could not believe my eyes when I came across Chief Executive CY Leung’s lame excuse for his late arrival at the Hong Kong Association luncheon in London, which he highlighted at the start of his speech without even offering an apology to his audience.

CY Leung’s feeble explanation for his tardiness wasn’t because he yearned to be fashionably late, nor was it because of London’s notorious traffic jams.

It was simply because he was absolutely awestruck by the sight of Chinese flags that were lined along The Mall outside Buckingham Palace and had to order his driver to stop his limousine so he could get out of his car and soak it all in.

Until now, I never knew that was a good enough excuse to be late for a work-related appointment.

Is Leung trying to raise the bar when it comes to brown-nosing his Beijing superiors, especially those who may be having second doubts about him running for another term in 2017?

I also did a double take after seeing his comments about the cornerstones of Hong Kong, such as rule of law and judicial independence.

We’ve already got the hint that Leung’s government treats them as mere catchphrases, to which they pay lip service from time to time.

But what struck me the most was his view that Hong Kong’s legal system, rule of law and judicial independence are “practically the same as that of Britain”.

In his warped mind, Leung continues to insist these are core values that are “rock solid” and “iron cast”.

It is worrying to think that his audience and the UK government may have got sucked into believing Leung’s gobbledygook without question.

What is even more worrying is the sore irony contained in Leung’s speech.

Remember, this is the exact same person who lectured Hong Kong about how the almighty chief executive of Hong Kong transcends the judiciary, legislature and the executive – a statement which was widely seen as doing away with separation of powers and the longstanding principle that every one is equal before the law without exception.

I know I am not the only person who scoffed at his “transcendent” position.

Unfortunately, I am also aware of the sad reality of this sorry situation, which is that Leung has gotten away and will continue to get away with making such statements because he genuinely believes it to be so and Beijing has got his back.

Long before Leung’s talk of transcending all three branches of government caused a commotion last month, Hao Tiechuan, a former publicity director of the central government’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong already created ripples in 2013 when he insisted that the separation of powers was completely inapplicable to Hong Kong.

The justification that Hao came up with at the time was that the chief executive is appointed by the central government and therefore enjoys a higher legal status in the SAR’s political hierarchy.

If there was separation of powers, Hao said this would mean instructions from the central government could be challenged by the judiciary and the legislature — something the Chinese Communist Party clearly cannot fathom.

Liaison Office Director Zhang Xiaoming brought Hao’s “logic” back into the spotlight last month, insisting that the chief executive was in a special legal position that transcends the three arms of government.

And that was Leung’s cue to defend his elevated status on more than one occasion, just to make sure that we got the point.

Despite the public backlash that ensued, I bet my bottom dollar that Beijing will persistently tell Hong Kong that this is nothing new and it should not be a cause for concern.

But we have every reason to be worried about China’s ongoing efforts to undermine the rule of law and separation of powers in Hong Kong.

Aided by Leung’s government, Beijing’s campaign of political and cultural cleansing in Hong Kong seems to have gone into overdrive these days.

Together, they will do whatever it takes to erase the city’s cornerstones and it won’t stop there.

Our laws, culture and history, and everything else they don’t like that has some sort of connection to our colonial past, will be wiped out as part of its dubious “decolonization” mission even before the Basic Law expires in 2047.

Last month, we were issued a harsh warning by former Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office deputy director Chen Zuo’er that our reluctance to implement decolonization has led to sluggish economic development and political woes that Hong Kong is faced with today.

Instead of clinging onto the “good old days” when we had rule of law, freedom of speech, due process and separation of powers in theory, as well as in practice, and without fear or favour, Chen told Hong Kong to embrace the advantages provided under the “one country, two systems” principle — “advantages” which, to this day, I am still having difficulty comprehending because the definition of that very principle can only be given meaning by Beijing itself.

This requirement to decolonize Hong Kong is apparently cemented in the Basic Law, according to Chen Zuo’er.

But to this day, neither Chen nor anyone else acting under Beijing’s orders, managed to pinpoint where exactly in the Basic Law this requirement of “decolonization” is mentioned.

When pressed by reporters on the subject on previous occasions, Chen’s response was that there was “no need” to go into the specifics of this sensitive issue.

Under the doctrine of separation of powers, it has always been the judiciary’s prerogative to run its own affairs.

Judges are people of the highest honor who would recuse themselves at any hint of conflict of interest.

Now, for first time in our judicial history, we have the Department of Justice telling a High Court judge, Kevin Zervos, to step aside from a judicial review case.

As a former director of public prosecutions, Zervos had recused himself from any criminal cases, appeals and civil cases involving the government for six months after joining the judiciary.

That rule is meant to ensure that former prosecutors don’t continue to act as prosecutors while on the bench.

Those six months have long passed and yet the Department of Justice has taken the wholly unprecedented step of trying to pick and choose who will hear the cases that the department happens to be defending.

I also wonder whether Zervos is being targeted by the department as a result of his record of finding against the government on numerous occasions.

When his six-month hiatus came to an end, Zervos found against the government in the first three appeal cases from the magistracy which came before him.

He has also ruled against government bodies in previous judicial review cases.

It just goes to show that this slippery slope looms large.

If our current leaders are truly serious about decolonization, then why is it that they happen to cling to colonial relics whenever it suits them?

While our government appears to be ever so keen to get rid of royal British insignia on our postboxes because they are “inappropriate”, its stalwarts couldn’t possibly fathom giving up quintessential representations of colonialism like their Jockey Club memberships.

Also, in the spirit of decolonization, is it really appropriate for the chief executive to reside in Government House, the very residence where all his colonial predecessors lived?

Should the chief secretary and financial secretary still live in their colonial-style mansions on Barker Road and Shouson Hill Road?

What’s the next thing that will succumb to this decolonization campaign?

Does all of this sound like Hong Kong’s rule of law, separation of powers and judicial independence, let alone the “one country, two systems” principle, are “rock solid” and “iron cast” as CY Leung proclaimed to his British audience?

Unless I am missing something here, it sounds more like Hong Kong is dying a slow and steady death by selective decolonization.

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