Time for pan-democrats to set an example on rule of law in Hong Kong
Pan-democrats love to bang on about the rule of law. But few local politicians are keener to abuse legal processes to delay, obstruct and discredit the government.
Among the tactics is the abusive use of judicial reviews by activists, filibustering by radical lawmakers and deliberate reporting to the ICAC just so that they can claim someone they have targeted is being probed for corruption. And if that someone turns out to be completely innocent like Franklin Lam Fan-keung, the former Executive Council member, well, who cares?
There is perhaps no greater champion of the rule of law than former Court of Final Appeal judge Henry Litton. In a public speech this week, he singled out the pernicious use of judicial reviews for political purposes. In particular, Litton cited a failed legal challenge to the government over its democratic reform package this year by University of Hong Kong student union leader Yvonne Leung Lai-kwok. He described that as a "misuse" of judicial reviews.
"Judicial review is not available for challenges to government policy," he said. "That's a fundamental rule in the separation of powers. The court is concerned with law, not policy. The courtroom is the place for the vindication of legal rights, redress for wrongs done. It's not a debating hall or a classroom."
There are no wiser words. But will those student leaders listen? I doubt it. The same young people who idealise the separation of powers seem to be rather ignorant of its real meaning.
Litton also cited a court case brought by a Tung Chung resident against the director of environmental protection in 2010 in a bid to delay the construction of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge. It was widely reported that the resident was an elderly recipient of social welfare who was used as a front by the Civic Party, a group full of barristers, to launch the judicial review against the bridge project.
Politicians should at least have the guts to do their own dirty work instead of exploiting ignorant elderly people.
The bridge project would have probably suffered serious delays even without the judicial review. But it certainly didn't help. If you want people to respect the rule of law, you should set an example first.