Elsie Leung snubs lawmakers with McCarthy comment

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 November, 2012, 9:36pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 November, 2012, 9:47pm

Former justice secretary Elsie Leung Oi-sie added fuel to the debate on Hong Kong’s rule of law again with her suggestion that Hong Kong could still be governed by imperial “Qing law” if the city’s legal system does not evolve.

Leung also snubbed lawmakers’ who had asked her to come to the Legislative Council’s panel on legal affairs meeting next Tuesday to explain her contentious remarks, saying she feared the panel meeting might turn into something similar to the McCarthy hearings.

Leung made the comments in a letter and an 11-page written submission to the Legco’s panel after receiving the invitation. Lawmakers – pan-democrats in particular – wanted her to explain her criticism last month of Hong Kong’s legal profession, including judges, saying they lacked understanding of the relationship between the central government and the special administrative region.

However, in her submission, Leung suggested that lawmakers interested in a discussion should contact her directly and arrange an appointment, rather than “intruding upon the valuable time for the panel meeting or use up public resources.”

“I doubted whether the panel meeting is an appropriate venue,” Leung wrote. “Inviting me to attend the panel meeting simply because some legislative councillors take issue with what I have said … may well create a dangerous precedent for turning panel meetings into McCarthy hearings.”

Leung was referring to a series of hearing held by the US Senate in the 1954 that were part of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s hunt for communists in the US.

Leung also defended a remark she made when she told the mainland’s Global Times on November 7 that Beijing’s promise of “an unchanged way of life for 50 years” did not mean everything in Hong Kong would remain unchanged, and that the legal system is “continuously evolving”.

In her latest submission, Leung emphasised that critics’ suggestion that she was advocating change in the legal system is “totally false”.

“If the legal system of Hong Kong has not been developing, the Chinese community must still be governed by customary law derived from Qing law,” Leung said, stressing that one of the merits of the common law system is its versatility, and ability to adapt to the progress of the society.

“Those who claim that I intended to introduce into changes that would impair the Hong Kong legal system or the rule of law… [are wrong], and their remarks are made purely for the purpose of scaring the public, disparaging me and causing disharmony in society.”