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Kemal Bokhary

Kemal Bokhary is the former permanent judge of Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal. Bokhary qualified as a barrister in the United Kingdom at 23 but returned to work in Hong Kong, where he was born. He has served as one of the four permanent judges in the Court of Final Appeal since 1997. Bokhary is known for his sense of humour in court. He stepped down on October 24, 2012 – a day before he turned 65.


NewsHong Kong

Patriots can be Beijing critics too, liberal judge Kemal Bokhary says

People who single out unpleasant aspects of the mainland are not necessarily disloyal to the country, liberal judge Kemal Bokhary says

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 April, 2013, 8:48am


  • Yes: 93%
  • No: 7%
18 Apr 2013
  • Yes
  • No
Total number of votes recorded: 429

Criticism of the mainland in areas one dislikes does not amount to being unpatriotic - a trait Beijing officials have signalled should disqualify one from vying for chief executive - a liberal judge of the top court says.

Justice Kemal Bokhary, a non-permanent judge at the Court of Final Appeal, also said a referendum should be held for certain issues to increase the level of democracy.

If you see something that you do not like about the mainland and you criticise it, that is not an attack against the country," Bokhary said. "It is simply a suggestion for improvement. That is not unpatriotic
Justice Kemal Bokhary

If you see something that you do not like about the mainland and you criticise it, that is not an attack against the country. It is simply a suggestion for improvement. That is not unpatriotic

The retired judge spoke in a February interview with Chinese University publication Hong Kong Student Law Gazette published yesterday. His words came about a month before Qiao Xiaoyang , chairman of the National People's Congress Law Committee, said on March 24 that future chief executives must "love the country and love Hong Kong" and "not confront the central government".

Qiao's sentiments were shared by Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference chairman Yu Zhengsheng and Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office director Wang Guangya , generating heated debate on who is patriotic and what the concept entails.

The outspoken Bokhary, who believed he was obliged to accept retirement because of his liberal views, also said full democracy could still be unattainable although the central leadership had pledged to allow universal suffrage in the 2017 chief executive election.

"Democracy in Hong Kong may always be limited for the simple reason that … the selection of the chief executive will involve nomination," he said.

He could see "some prospect" of real democracy, though, because the chief executive must get along with legislators, which Beijing said could all be elected by a one-man-one-vote system in 2020 at the earliest.

He put forth a formula for more democracy. "If you have a reasonable way for people to participate effectively in democracy, probably with a balance between representative democracy through elections and some direct democracy on certain issues through referendum, then I think that is acceptable."

And in a rare demonstration of his knowledge of state affairs, Bokhary commented on the 1989 crackdown on Tiananmen Square. "What happened on June 4 was not between people who were patriots and people who were not … It is necessary to debate certain things without accusing each other of being unpatriotic."

Elsie Leung Oi-sie, the former secretary for justice who is now vice-chairwoman of the NPC Basic Law Committee, has previously accused judges of lacking understanding in mainland affairs when adjudicating cases.

On Article 23 - a Basic Law provision on national security that sparked a 500,000-strong opposition march a decade ago - Bokhary questioned if it must be ratified, given existing laws that achieved the same aim.

"In what sense has the mainland been threatened, and in what sense has Hong Kong been threatened, by the absence of this legislation so far?" he asked. "Could someone really threaten the security of the state without breaching some existing law?"

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said it was "a constitutional duty" to legislate Article 23, though this was not his priority.

"Article 23 has become a focus of what the Hong Kong people worry about," Bokhary said. "You cannot talk people out of this fear."



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hard times !
though democracy can not ensure a good government,yet a bad government elected by voters can be asked to step down at the next election and no bloody revolutions or revolts are needed. An elected government such as Taiwan's Chen Shui-bien could be a corrupted one but he was duly punished soon after his stepping down.
hard times !
agree with what this former judge of the final appeal said about what a geniune patriot is ! Even critics of the PRC government does not mean that they are not patriotic to the country (not necessarily to the ruling regime of course.) I fully welcome such open-minded words from a local experienced judge.Then local commentators on Chinese affairs like Mr.Ching Cheung, Lau Yiu-siu, Poon Siu-to, Lam Wo-lap, Lee Yi,even Tao Kit and Wong yuk-man can be regarded as patriots !
When Tyranny Takes Over The Government: TREASON IS PATRIOTIC
democracy does not ensure a good government, far from it. only good leaders and ensure a good government, nothing else can. this is the conclusion of Machiavelli.
Your thinking is flawed. In the U.S. there are mechanism to change the government, the party in power, the elected officials and even the consitution. In Mainland China one must accept the way things are and if you speak out or write to criticize, you will certainly be detained.
There is big difference and clear line between dissent versus sedition. Given the monopoly of power of the one-party system, any call for its end may be deemed sedition: "unpatriotic" and a criminal offence. Criticism, dissent, exposing corruptions of party officals, and call of reform which is advocated by the Party leaders are outward and open show of one's patriotic love of one's mother country. Whether the latter kind will be "allowed" to stand for CE election may be a diiferent matter as the CE will need to be acceptable to and work with Beijing. HKERs are fully capable of making our own choices: so-to-speak "contrained optimization".
Totally agree, where as a nationalist does not mean he/she is patriotic as well. These are the old out of date confucius thinking must change!!!
Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely. Democracy does not ensure good governments; democracy ensure bad governments will step down.Perfect systems exist only in the idealized world; real world is all relative. What democracy ensures (relatvely) is independency of the judiciary such that all men are equal (relatively) in front of the law.
what happened in 6/4, in chinese communist party view, was an attempt to cross the line of the one party rule to create a western style of democracy. if hkg is to make "direct democracy" acceptable to china, concerned parties must swear to uphold the one party rule, and eventually be kowtow to CCP. this is like in a chinese restaurant, you have only one menu, chinese food. you can't be trying to get a McD. that's the china's view. the question is, is hkg able to change china?
wow. your statement is not even accepted in US. that's what got Tim McVey a needle when he acted on his "patriot movement". indeed, the militia groups all call themselves "patriots".


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