Meet Hong Kong’s new supreme leader

September 10, 2020 06:00
Photo: Reuters

Every year, the government honors people who have contributed to Hong Kong. They receive Bauhinia medals. I suggest our supreme leader, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, award Bauhinia medals for gallantry to the policemen who pinned a 12-year-old girl to the ground last Sunday.

It takes guts for over three policemen to chase a skinny, unarmed pre-teenager and knee her down. The policeman who wrestled a pregnant woman to the ground last month and pepper-sprayed her deserves a Bauhinia medal too for chivalry.

I hope Lam will accept my suggestion. It would be a great media coup for her in cheongsam awarding gallantry medals at Government House to our macho policemen. But one thing puzzles me. The police claimed the 12-year-old girl was acting suspiciously during a Mong Kok protest and ran when approached.

I am not sure if the policemen who kneed her have children. Most parents know young children react instinctively when they sense danger. What can be scarier to a young girl than policemen in riot gear menacing her?

If she was acting suspiciously, why issue her with a social distancing penalty ticket? How can it be suspicious to break the social distancing rule? It is broken all over Hong Kong 24 hours a day. I have yet to see policemen tackle large groups in Central for suspicious behavior unless they are protesters.

In a recent interview with the Beijing-friendly Phoenix TV, Lam said she was an administrator who doesn’t understand politics. Last week she understood politics well enough to declare Hong Kong doesn’t have separation of powers, making clear she, as chief executive, has the power to appoint or remove judges as well as the power to approve some of the Legislative Council’s work.

That’s why a more appropriate title for her is supreme leader rather than chief executive. The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office essentially confirmed that in a statement this week, which insisted Hong Kong has no separation of powers. The statement said Hong Kong has an executive-led system with the chief executive “as the core”.

If Lam is our government’s core, then she must be the supreme leader. But let’s not forget China, which Hong Kong is a part of, has only one true core leader – Xi Jinping. That downgrades Lam to a subservient core leader. Most Hongkongers know our supreme leader is only supreme in name.

Real power flows from Beijing to its liaison office in Hong Kong, which has essentially assumed the role of ruling Hong Kong. Even our police force no longer answers to Lam, our so-called core leader.

As core, or supreme, leader in a city with no separation of powers, surely Lam can comment on how the police enforces the law. But when reporters asked about the 12-year-old who police kneed to the ground, she said it was not right for her to comment.

Even non-core leaders in the United States, such as mayors, sympathize with victims of alleged police heavy-handedness. If Lam, a mother, could not bring herself to do that, I can only conclude it is considered weakness for our core leaders to show compassion.

That’s why Lam showed little concern for the 12 young Hongkongers arrested by the mainland when fleeing to Taiwan. She told reporters the 12 must first face mainland justice for breaking mainland law.

Compare that to how Australia helped two of its China-based journalists flee, how Canada is demanding the release of two Canadians arrested by China for alleged spying, and how Sweden is demanding the release of bookseller Gui Minhai, a Swedish citizen detained on the mainland.

The 12 Hongkongers were detained for illegally crossing into mainland waters. The fact is they inadvertently, not illegally, crossed into mainland waters when trying to flee to Taiwan. The least our supreme leader should do is insist they have access to lawyers, but she couldn’t even bring herself to say that.

Lam insists free speech in Hong Kong is intact but the use of a colonial-era sedition law by the national security police to arrest activist Tam Tak-chi proves otherwise. He was hauled to court two days ago for allegedly uttering seditious words and inciting hatred and contempt against the government. Tam only shouted slogans such as “liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” and “five demands, not one less”.

Such slogans may be illegal under the Beijing-imposed security law, so why use an outdated colonial-era law to charge him? In the US, and here in Hong Kong and the mainland, inciting hatred and contempt for President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are commonplace. No one is charged. Hong Kong’s loyalists should stop saying US security laws are more draconian.

Hong Kong is now not only ruled by fear but reigned by terror. It is a police state with a supreme leader. The legislature is virtually powerless. Our independent judiciary is under attack. But it’s our last line of defense. I hope our judges will fight back, using a different form of bravery than the policemen who kneed a young girl.

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A Hong Kong-born American citizen who has worked for many years as a journalist in Hong Kong, the USA and London.