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Beijing White Paper 2014
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Hong Kong chief justice weighs in for the first time on Beijing white paper

Chief justice weighs into debate on Beijing's controversial white paper, telling conference that independence is protected by Basic Law

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 August, 2014, 7:37pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 August, 2014, 1:55pm

The city's top judge yesterday weighed into the debate about Beijing's white paper on the city's affairs, stressing that the local judiciary would act only on the basis of the law and would not be swayed by any other factor.

Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li was commenting for the first time on the June report, which disturbed many lawyers by classifying judges as "administrators" with a "basic political requirement" to love the country.

His remarks, in a speech on "the rule of law and an independent judiciary", came a day after his predecessor Andrew Li Kwok-nang expressed reservations about the document.

Addressing a conference organised by the University of Cambridge Hong Kong and China Affairs Society, Ma said the white paper had triggered discussion on rule of law. But, he added, judicial independence was protected by various articles of the Basic Law, such as the stipulation that judicial and professional qualities should be the only criteria in a judge's appointment.

Ma said the public could assess whether the city's courts remained independent based on four factors: the views of the legal profession on the topic, court transparency, rulings in controversial cases and those involving the government and, finally, whether judgments complied, objectively, with legal principles.

In a commentary for the South China Morning Post on Friday, Li wrote that a requirement for patriotism was perceived as being "supportive of and cooperating with" local and central governments. It was "unfortunate and unsuitable" for the white paper to include judges among those who "administrate" Hong Kong, he added. Ma said his views on judicial independence and the rule of law were "largely the same" as Li's.

Former University of Hong Kong law dean Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun said the public should listen to the views of Li and Ma. "The central government should also clarify" its views, Chan said.

Ma and Li's remarks came amid growing concern from lawyers over the white paper. On Thursday, the Law Society passed a vote of no confidence in president Ambrose Lam San-keung after he came out in favour of the white paper.

The society's rules do not require a president to resign after a no-confidence vote. Its ruling council next meets on Tuesday.

In an editorial yesterday, the state-run Global Times said the vote was "absurd" because Lam's freedom of speech should be "supported and protected".


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Absolute judicial immunity should be abolished. Absolute immunity and absolute power are a dangerous combination. "The views of the legal profession on the topic, court transparency, rulings in controversial cases and those involving the government and, finally, whether judgments complied, objectively, with legal principles." The Chief Justice did not mention the views of the informed public. So far as they go, they are fine words in principle but mean nothing if they are not practised. Lack of court transparency often means not only the legal profession but also the public are uninformed.The Privy Council is an impeccably independent final appellate court that unfortunately cannot be restored to Hong Kong without an impossibly visionary policy change in Hong Kong and Beijing backed up with constitutional amendments. This continued an international trend. The Privy Council ceased to be Australia’s final appellate court in 1986, giving greater freedom for uncontrolled and illegitimate judicial activism to flourish there. Shrinkage of the beneficial reach of the Privy Council in the common law world continued when New Zealand abolished appeals to the London court from 2004.
In reply to ******
Aug 17th 2014 4:19pm
(1) TSE spoke thus:
… Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats' feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar
Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;
Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death's other Kingdom
Remember us—if at all—not as lost
Violent souls, but only …
(2) Can Mexican legislators legislate in the US
US judges adjudicate in Canadian courts
and Canadian lawyers practice in Mexico?
HK’s copycat jurists may learn intellectual honesty
from Cambridge economists about their life works
J Robinson called economics “a national study”
HJ Chang, “the study of political management of the economy”
Economists pursuing their study without loving their countries
like jurists prqctising national law without loving their countries
are poor souls distancing from their own beings
Fools ignorant of love and themselves
For a good development, personal or national
one must cultivate the art of give and take
and balance reputational and material gains
in various situations
It’s foolish to mistake patriotism as a blind win-all attitude
in all disputes involving one’s country
Cultural orphans learnt one-sided formalities
For the milieu of children growing up in a family
read the oath of the english privy council
Good to see members of the HK establishment showing backbone for the basic rights of HK people even in the face of the tyrants who seek to take our rights under the guise of protecting stability. We need more like this man and fewer like the pretenders who say they are here to help us but serve only the tyrants across the border.
Party functionaries and their cronies in HK present their arbitrary pronouncements as if they are law. They are not, nor are political pronouncements in a White Paper. Chief Justice Ma very properly meets the misguided pronouncements in the White Paper with the Basic Law, which is the real law. End of story.
Let us get this straight-the current rule of law in Hong Kong is only for 50 years from July 1, 1997 and is protected by the Basic Law only for this period. After 50 years the Basic Law will cease.
All these 'hot air' and arguments we are seeing and hearing now are just personal opinions.
The key questions are : Has the Basic Law been violated to-date and why are we all not thinking and talking about its imminent end sooner or later and its transition from 50 years of one country two systems to one country one system? Perhaps, we are being foolishly blind to the eventual demise of the Basic Law and have not shown any inclination to be one country one system.
The sooner the public knows more about the 'truth' (Big picture) the more informed they will become.
Basic Law Article 5
The socialist system and policies shall not be practised in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and the previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years.
We have about 33 years left to enjoy our "way of life". I don't think I will live long enough to see 1 July 2047. But if I do, I think I will wake up to a very different place. Newspaper headline may read: "It could have been another 50 years if those guys did not play hard ball with us".
The strength of the Hong Kong system is the rule of law. The law is enacted by the legislature. Once it is enacted the judiciary gives judgement in accordance with the law enacted without undue influence from anyone including the President or Chief Executive. The Chief Justice is placed in the position to ensure the principal of the rule of law is carried out. Their statements made in public in their capacity is therefore important and if we do not believe in what they say we might as well flush the rule of law down the toilet
The title of your article is meek and submissive. Why? Try not to vex Beijing? If so, why print it?
Got to make a living, you know.
Is "law" in general politically neutral? To answer this question one needs only think how law gets created in the first place. There are no politically neutral laws, perhaps only some more overtly so than others. For the judiciary, as a champion of the rule of law, to be considered neutral politically is sheer illusion. The judiciary being a strong regulating force in society, it is merely being accurate to count it as an element in administration. It is a shame that so many HKers cannot see the obvious and can only chant the banal litany of its supposed (and non-existent) independence.




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