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  • Oct 23, 2014
  • Updated: 10:32pm
Beijing White Paper 2014
NewsHong Kong

Hong Kong justice secretary Rimsky Yuen struggles to defend Beijing’s white paper

Rimsky Yuen says 'requirements' laid out by central government comparable to existing judicial oath, amid accusations city's judicial independence is under threat

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 June, 2014, 4:41pm
UPDATED : Friday, 13 June, 2014, 9:06am

Hong Kong's justice secretary insisted yesterday that Beijing's white paper on "one country, two systems" did not interfere with the city's judicial independence.

Nor did it, said the secretary, Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung, "add any extra requirements which are not found in the Basic Law".

But amid accusations from the legal profession that Beijing was putting pressure on city's judiciary, Yuen struggled to clarify whether judges should consider national security, strategic interests and the white paper itself when deciding cases.

The paper, released on Tuesday, emphasised Beijing's control over Hong Kong. It categorised judges as Hong Kong administrators just like the chief executive and top officials.

That was a mistake, according to the Bar Association's strongly worded response to the paper, released Wednesday.

The State Council-issued paper says administrators, including judges, have a "basic political requirement" to love the country.

Yuen said that was tantamount to the allegiance to Hong Kong that judges already swear as part of their judicial oath.

"I don't want to play around with words nor … be pedantic," Yuen said. But "when judges take their oath when assuming office, it is already a legal manifestation of the 'love the country, love Hong Kong' concept".

The white paper "doesn't add extra requirements which are not found in the Basic Law … nor does it change any article in the Basic Law," the secretary said.

Earlier yesterday, the Civic Party's legal-sector lawmaker, Dennis Kwok, urged Yuen to clarify whether the paper directed judges to consider China's national security and interests when deciding cases.

Kwok later endorsed the Bar's view in a statement jointly issued with 29 other representatives in the Election Committee's legal section.

Yuen did not address Kwok's question, instead focusing his answer on Hong Kong.

"Everyone would agree that when a judge is discharging his judicial function, one would suppose the judge to be acting in the interest of Hong Kong as a whole," the minister said. "Judicial independence means deciding cases free from interference from any individual or the executive branch."

But he sidestepped the question of whether the white paper should be a reference for judges when making judgments.

"When judges decide on cases, they make reference to the evidence, the law and other literature," he said.

Lawyers could choose whether to include the white paper in their submissions and judges could consider whether the submission was relevant.

On Wednesday, the Bar cited remarks it made in 2008 when it was chaired by Yuen himself: "The judiciary … is not, and should not be regarded as, part of the governance team."

Dismissing suggestions that he was contradicting himself, Yuen said he still stood by that view because the word "administrators" in Beijing's paper referred to members of the city's political structure while the "governance team" in his statement only meant the executive branch.

Speaking in Beijing, Basic Law Committee member Maria Tam Wai-chu endorsed Yuen's view: "Although the judiciary is part of the political structure … judicial officers shall exercise judicial power independently."

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor also weighed in to defend the white paper.

"There is absolutely no truth in saying that the white paper has undermined Hong Kong's autonomy," she said. "The white paper described … 'one country, two systems' clearly, comprehensively and accurately."


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This article is now closed to comments

"Trolling check, 3.50am check, loud and clear man. Langley and Washington DC got the full report during their waking hours. We dig."

Most of the 50 centers annoyed the hell out of me the past couple of days. I have to admit that I laughed at this comment though. Very funny post.
How About
To mh0908 1.20, 3.21pm : they've engineered a snafu.
The Judiciary “we” [think HK] got was separate and not an entity of the executive or legislative arm of the government, hence “we” always thought/believed there has been a crucial residual autonomy in addition to which is way above the “high degree of autonomy”. The legal jabs were such that since the Judiciary’s separation “has been (mis)understood” to operate outside and on top of the two other bodies of the HKSAR government, China’s sovereignty over HKSAR was “understood” to have been limited, less than absolute, and possibly denigrated to less than suzerainty. Naturally the Demon-cracy-agitators further their thesis creatively to deem that sovereignty to have been non-existent, and WORSE, all HK folks were coaxed to have been given less than what they rightly deserve.
Coupled that with HK has been doing “everything” better than China so HK’s modus vivendi should prevail; AND, a blatant swipe at China’s CCP did not have the mandate of the people [history is conveniently forgotten because the 1949 October PRC Declaration atop the Forbidden City Noon-gate was a forgettable blip], China aka CCP aka our oppressive north should not be allowed to revisit the Basic Law, to reinterpret 1C-2S nor to suppress OC or the pro-democracy freedom-fighters.
It’s about at least 4 different ways of saying China you shall not tell us what to do because… And it’s exactly what Zhou Nan said last weekend.
My biggest issue with the Hong Kong Government is that I think every Hong Konger should get a free copy of this White Paper. In traditional Chinese character, of course. One country, two systems.
The white paper has demystified the 1C2S - it doesn't exist. It's one country, and HK's system will be whatever BJ wants it to be. Any talk of HK autonomy will be purely semantics, since the paper spells out BJ's interpretation that HK has none...and BJ's interpretation is apparently the only one that counts. Basic Law is exactly what BJ says it is, and BJ has just said what it is. No formal legal or judicial opinion necessary, since BJ owns HK's legal and judiciary processes, so BJ's opinion is the legal or judicial opinion of record.
The process has begun whereby HK becomes just another Chinese city. I don't know in what order the unique characteristics of HK-ness will disappear...but I'd get your fill of traditional Chinese characters while the gettin' is good, cuz that's going to go the way of the dodo at some point, just like everything else uniquely HK will.
I doubt that Beijing doesn’t put pressure on the Hong Kong judiciary on purpose by emphasizing the whitepaper that “it has ‘complete jurisdiction’ over the territory and is the source of its autonomy”. Otherwise, why has the authority restated the importance of the whitepaper at the present time? I think it is nothing more than a reminder that who is holding the card. I sympathize with the Hong Kong ministers, in particular Secretary Yuen, who, on the one hand, defend the judicial independence of the city; on the other hand, they have to cover up the intention of Beijing.
Did you mean to say China's sovereignty of Hong Kong? And I think you are referring to the following from the White Paper?
The White Paper is rather short and I would urge everyone to read it. My MS Word counted about 22,000 Chinese characters only. Honestly, it reads like a history book and then concluded by China's determination to keep their words to upholding the One Country, Two Systems. Someone need to explain to me in detail what is bothering them. I do wish to understand what the matter is. Really.
Content of the White Paper
What is the argument? I don't get it.
It is kind of sad that a person who nominally serves the people of HK must work to defend the attempts of those who want to nullify the right of those served. Sadly, the current situation puts the CE and his team in a conflict of interest situation where they serve not the public but the Masters in Beijing and we have no say in how our governance is to be undertaken. And the best part is that it is the seeming duty of those tasked with our governance to ensure that we do what the Masters order, ceding our rights and privileges so as not to upset the Masters. That must make you Beijing sycophants giddy with joy that deviant thoughts of freedom and autonomy are being crushed so effectively.
Now that the white paper has dispensed with any notion of HK self-governance, it should also be crystal clear as to exactly who the talking heads in government work for. It's been immensely clear to me all along, but now there should be no residual doubt. These guys are the local stooges, and the puppet masters are in BJ. The HK government does not work for HKers; it merely serves as an extension of BJ so as to control HKers. Hk is the prison, Hkers are the ones in the jumpsuits, and Rimsky and Carrie and Co are the prison guards. Don't drop the soap, HKers.




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