Carrie the kipper

September 02, 2019 11:10
Will Carrie Lam find the inner courage to do what is right for the people of Hong Kong amid the current crisis, our columnist wonders. Photo: Reuters

So, as some of us rather guessed, Carrie Lam is a kipper: two-faced and no guts.

As Chief Executive, her powers are extensive and certainly include withdrawing a Bill and ordering a Commission of Inquiry. Indeed, under the provisions of the Basic Law, these powers are delegated to the Special Administrative Region.

Consequently, the central government does not enjoy the authority - note I say authority, not power - to prohibit the S.A.R's top leader from exercising her powers.

Plainly, there was no requirement for Carrie Lam to seek prior approval from the central government to exercise powers which were hers in any event.

That she felt obliged to do so demonstrates almost by definition that she is unfit for office.

Worse, it also proves that when she said that she enjoyed the full confidence of the central government, she was being extremely economic with the truth.

So where does this leave Hong Kong?

On the one hand the protests continue unabated and on the other the barbarians are knocking at the gate.

Viewed objectively, the protesters' five demands could and should be whittled down to two.

Withdrawing the Extradition Bill and setting up an independent inquiry into the recent events are well within the scope of authority of the Hong Kong administration, and only the blind, deaf or dumb can't see that they are essential.

The government's classification of 'riot' is only a label; the proper authority to determine this is the judiciary on examination of specific prosecutions.

An amnesty for everyone arrested is interference with the criminal justice system and as such strikes at the integrity of that system. That would not prevent a properly informed Department of Justice deciding not to proceed with prosecutions which were unlikely to result in a conviction. But that is part of the justice system.

The demand for a democratic political system without built-in gerrymandered constituencies is reasonable and is foreshadowed in the Basic Law.

Indeed, it may be argued that it is this very lack of genuine public representation in the Legislative Council and election of the Chief Executive that underlies the deep sense of public disquiet which is manifesting itself in the massive spontaneous public protests.

But though I would dearly wish to see a truly representative electorate, the realpolitik is that the PRC will not permit this in the immediate future.

Hong Kong is adrift in a tumultuous sea; the captain and senior officers have abandoned ship, leaving the beleaguered crew in the shape of the Police Force to contend with wave after wave battering the ship of state.

The crew's morale is at an all-time low and they are exhausted from their endeavors which, regrettably, have only further weakened the ship's integrity.

Having first ignored the moral compass, Carrie Lam let go the tiller, more interested in saving herself than the vessel or its passengers.

If the central government tries to intervene now, they will drive the ship onto the rocks and it will flounder.

Already a Chinese state newspaper is attacking the Hong Kong judiciary, demonstrating that blissful ignorance of the separation of powers and the inviolability of an independent judiciary.

Where is Carrie's condemnation of such an attack? Why has the Secretary for Justice not sprung to the defense of the judiciary knowing that by convention it does not defend itself?

Well, they have deserted the ship to save their own skins. Perhaps they are waiting for Comrade Grenville Cross to pen an absolution, praying in aid his admiration for the Mainland's deeply flawed justice system.

And yet, are we in Hong Kong so very far removed from that same unjust legal system now that we have mass arrests on threadbare charges over two months after the event and suspiciously timed for political effect?

The Department of Justice is increasingly becoming more akin to its eponymous alter ego in Orwell's 1984.

Only Hong Kong's independent judiciary stands between the populace and the dark vortex of Mainland incarceration.

One day, Carrie Lam will have to face her God and answer for her sins against the people of Hong Kong.

If she were to confess to the Pope today, can it be doubted that His Holiness would tell her to find the inner courage to do what is right? Granting the two feasible demands would abate the storm and allow Hong Kong to return to safe waters and a relatively smooth passage.

Sadly, she is more likely to slip into the obscurity of her former manifestation as a herring, hiding from the smoke of tear gas that reveals her as a genuine kipper.

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RC

Queen's Counsel