July 28, 2017 11:01
Realpolitik means that the Communist Party of China can do whatever it likes with and in Hong Kong. Photo: AFP

MPA does not, as the Hong Kong government asserts, stand for "mainland port area" but "mainland power acquisition".

Realpolitik means that the Communist Party of China can do whatever it likes with and in Hong Kong because world opinion bows down to the might is right philosophy of Xi Jingping and his cohorts. The appearance of all political borders separating Hong Kong’s Special Administrative Region from the rest of the Chinese mainland is no more than that, an appearance.

In patently unequal negotiations between the UK and China, an international agreement was thrashed out, the terms of which made Hong Kong a largely self-governing region within the People's Republic of China. Nevertheless, in 1997 President Jiang Zemin’s vision for China was more benign than the present incumbent.

By far the most important provision of the agreement was that Hong Kong would continue to be governed by the common law system that was in place prior to July 1997.

An essential concomitant of that provision was that the PRoC writ would not run in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Beijing insisted on reserving to itself the contradictory power to “interpret” the provisions of the Basic Law. Those less familiar with the duplicity of the CPC attributed this reservation to a mere exercise of preserving "face". History has proved how wrong they were.

But aside from the "interpretations" the received wisdom was that Beijing would honor both the spirit and the letter of the Basic Law.

The renditions of booksellers and Xiao Jianhua not only disproved this belief but, and this is the aspect that gives Hong Kong people the greatest fears, demonstrated that the Hong Kong government was complicit in these illegal kidnappings. This is the fear that occupies the minds of Hongkongers, not, as Priscilla Leung asserts, simply closer ties with the mainland.

Now the Hong Kong government, knuckling its collective forehead to its Beijing overlords, intends to create a 10-hectare PRoC enclave within Hong Kong which will be called the "mainland port area" in which mainland immigration and customs officers will enforce mainland law.

The stated purpose is to facilitate the full transport, social and economic benefits of linking Hong Kong to China’s high-speed rail system.

The practical problem that they set out to resolve was stationing mainland immigration and customs officials in Hong Kong so as to avoid the train stopping at the border.

If the mechanics had been limited to immigration, there would have been little difficulty in posting mainland immigration officials in Kowloon to vet travelers seeking to enter the mainland. If their documentation was defective they could simply have been refused access to the train. For this, no more space is required than a computer-equipped booth.

Some half-wit has imported the word "port" into the description, presumably thinking of the free trade ports that some countries create. These are designated areas which are, in effect, large bonded warehouses to facilitate customs-free transactions. Only a nincompoop would believe that people will be fooled by this deceit.

No, the gravamen of the problem arises when the MPA becomes a customs checkpoint the size of 10 international rugby pitches in which mainland law obtains because passengers alleged to be carrying contraband of any description would be subject to mainland law, susceptible to arrest and the entire disaster that is the PRoC’s legal system.

Moreover, once on board, the train passengers will be regarded as within mainland territory.

Still while within Hong Kong.

With all due respect to the learned Chinese lawyers, mainland law is diametrically different in character to Hong Kong law, not least in its nebulous character which robs it of the certainty that the common law demands.

Until Carrie Lam’s accession, Hongkongers were concerned with what one might describe as "mainland creep". The slow but irresistible subordination of Cantonese language, the parochialization of a city of international qualities, abandonment of English as a language of equal status, the insinuation of Communist Party culture and thinking. The rewarding of committee membership to local celebrities sucking up to the program of greater integration into the Kafkaesque world of the CPC.

From a legal standpoint, the MPA is the thin edge of the wedge. Imagine an intending train passenger arrested for carrying a book that offends against the sanctity of the CPC who takes to his heels and flees. Under the doctrine of "hot pursuit" mainland officers would unhesitatingly pursue him into SAR territory.

On past performance, sadly, we can only anticipate Hong Kong’s officials looking on with approval as mainland officers overstepped their jurisdiction.

The pusillanimous official attempt to draw a comparison with the arrangements for the Eurostar is an egregious misdescription. The French immigration officers at St. Pancras and their British counterparts at the Gare du Nord are there as a mutual convenience limited to checking whether or not the passengers may travel. They have no extra-territorial powers of arrest nor do they occupy anything larger than a cubicle. But we cannot expect more from our cerebrally impoverished bureaucrats.

Rimsky Yuen’s attempt at justification began with the correct premise that all Chinese land belongs to the PRoC and Hong Kong’s share is leased to it. His intellectual shortcomings then came into play when he compared the PRoC to a lessor reclaiming property from a lessee. In a civilized society, landlords can only repossess leased property mid-term by operation of law pursuant to a fundamental breach of the terms of the lease.

Cui bono? Or as we lawyers would say, who benefits or has the motive for this crime?

Hong Kong has a chronic shortage of land which is gravely inhibiting the provision of sufficient housing for its population. The young people of Hong Kong’s inability to get on the housing ladder is a potent cause for dissatisfaction and loss of confidence. Ten hectares is 100,000 square meters of land which this government proposes to give away. What sort of nightmare are we living in?

This monumental multibillion-dollar folly of a railway cannot by any standard be justified against Hong Kong’s dire needs for fully manned hospitals, sufficient housing fit for human beings rather than animals, top quality schools for all its children in every community, dignified accommodation for the elderly. Hong Kong’s economy could well afford these priorities were it not for the bridge to nowhere and the magical mystery disappearance railway.

Priscilla Leung is correct when she says that opposition is driven by an emotional fear of closer ties to the mainland; what she ignores is that what ordinary Hong Kong people see are PSB shackles. We have a great city to be proud of if only she and her kindred would only use their influence to persuade Beijing to leave Hong Kong alone to achieve its own destiny.

But it seems that not only have the lunatics taken over the asylum, we are now governed by wicked collaborators who are blind to the obscenities that they commit us to in the name of integration.

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Queen's Counsel