Last month our courts made several landmark decisions that helped to set the record straight on the idea of the so-called civil disobedience that has been advocated by some pro-democracy intellectuals in recent years, and put our rule of law back on track again.
First, the Court of Appeal overturned the previous decisions made by the Magistrates’ Court on the sentences of 13 activists convicted of trespassing and vandalism during a protest against the northeastern New Territories development plan in 2014 and sent them to jail for eight to 13 months.
Within three days, the appellate court again overturned the decisions made by the lower court on the cases of three former student leaders and put them behind bars.
These two milestone rulings are highly significant as they laid down a clear line between “freedom of assembly” and “unlawful violence”, thereby resoundingly debunking the notion pitched by some people that it is all right to break the law for a “just cause”.
One week later, the Court of Final Appeal denied two ousted Youngspiration lawmakers permission to move forward with their appeal over their disqualification. This important case shaped the political paths of the duo and four other disqualified lawmakers.
The decision of the case not only spelled the end of the year-long oath-taking saga, but also sent five key messages to society:
1. Our judiciary won’t allow itself to be politicized, nor will it interfere in political issues. And the court would only grant permission to appeal applications on cases that are of profound public significance.
2. The power to interpret the Basic Law by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee has overriding constitutional status in our judicial system, and therefore any interpretation it made is binding to all levels of courts in Hong Kong.
3. The two Youngspiration lawmakers were disqualified entirely on solid and substantial legal grounds, and as such there is absolutely no question of them being politically persecuted by the authorities as some people has claimed.
4. Any lawmaker-elect who fails to take their oath of office in accordance with Article 104 of the Basic Law will automatically be disqualified even if they have a popular mandate. It is because there is absolutely no room for any political act to meddle with the rule of law.
5. Politicians who are trying to serve their own selfish agenda in the name of upholding social justice will have to pay the price one way or another, and they only have themselves to blame.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept. 7
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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