Hong Kong Calibans

January 05, 2018 10:08
Supporters of retired Police Superintendent Frankly Chu (inset) rally outside the court on Wednesday. Chu was sentenced to three months in jail for hitting a pedestrian with a baton during the 2014 Occupy protests. Photos: RTHK/HKEJ

I shall not embark on an analysis of the sentence imposed on the retired Police Superintendent Frankly Chu. If he is aggrieved he is at liberty to appeal and, in the remote possibility that the Department of Justice consider the sentence too lenient, they too can appeal.

What I regard as fundamentally an attack on Hong Kong’s legal system is the racist criticism of the Magistrate Bina Chainrai.

What is happening in Hong Kong when anyone feels that it is acceptable openly to describe a magistrate as a dog?

But the sting in the megaphone politicking was the call to "dismiss all foreign judges, we want Chinese ones".

It is critical to bear in mind that one of the planks of Hong Kong’s success is the multi-ethnic composition of so many of its institutions as well as its commercial and professional bodies.

Obviously, only a moron would use Magistrate Chainrai’s ethnicity as a means of criticism and every society has its complement of morons. But why is there a deafening silence from the Chief Executive Carrie Lam and the Department of Justice?

It is a legal maxim that silence does not connote acceptance but the failure to condemn, unequivocally, this form of attack on the judiciary carries the unnerving perception that Mrs. Lam and her administration are prepared to tolerate it.

It is not as though the government has not had a "dry run". During CY Leung’s tenure of office, the same sans-culottes were issuing threats against District Judge David Dufton and his family, calling him a dog and a "white skin with a yellow heart".

CY Leung’s intellectual dwarf Secretary for Justice failed categorically to denounce such attacks which, though only to be expected in his case, nonetheless struck me as a grave abandonment of his responsibilities.

The rule of law in Hong Kong depends on the public’s recognition of the integrity of its judiciary, the one quality which distinguishes the Special Administrative Region from all the jurisdictions in Southeast Asia.

This administration’s signal failure immediately to defend judicial integrity is a grave symptom of a systemic disease that, unchecked, will destroy Hong Kong.

We can survive crass administrative mediocrity; is that not what we have done over the past 20 years? But the niggling sense that those in executive power neither value nor understand that the rule of law is the very lifeblood of Hong Kong and that the judiciary is its venous system bodes ill for our future.

The concept that Justice is blind envisages a judicial system that ignores the ethnicity, religion, social, political or financial standing of a litigant. But it works in both directions because the ethnicity, religion, social, political and financial standing of a judge is equally irrelevant.

Populism takes many forms. One of its most sinister iterations is dividing people along racial lines. Ever since 1997 there has been a gradual but noticeable thinning among the ranks of non-ethnic Chinese in the public administration.

This contributes to the deglobalization of Hong Kong. Even a cursory examination reveals that every great city has a multi-ethnic population upon which their respective administrations draw for their staffing. Reversing this evolutionary development is a retrograde step.

For the world to advance there has to be a level of racial harmony, a process which Hong Kong once exemplified with its rich diversity of races and the extraordinary harnessing of its indigenous Cantonese population with those of non- or part-Cantonese extraction either born here or who were attracted to its culture of diversity.

What makes a Hongkonger? The law recognizes the permanent resident after seven years' continuous residence. What of the thousands of non-Chinese born and living here? And do we not include those who retired here, having spent the majority of their lives working in and for Hong Kong?

Many of us were born in other places but are proud to call ourselves Hongkongers because we have invested so much of our lives here.

Bina Chainrai was born in India but her father was a Hong Kong-based businessman and he brought up his family here. She graduated from Hong Kong University and her career has been devoted to Hong Kong.

Is she not a Hong Kong magistrate by vocation, commitment and service to the community and fully deserving of unequivocal backing by this administration?

-- Contact us at [email protected]


Queen's Counsel