Public Eye

When it comes to rule of law, Hong Kong can’t have its cake and eat it too

The opposition wants court costs dropped for disqualified lawmakers but cries foul over joint immigration checkpoints at West Kowloon

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 July, 2017, 3:26pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 July, 2017, 4:24pm

So, you don’t want Hong Kong to become like just another mainland city. Fine. Then never forget it’s the rule of law that lets us stand tall against rivals Shenzhen and Shanghai. Bend it even a little and we’ll be no better than they are.

It’s a staple of the opposition to mock the mainland’s rule of law and to lecture it against meddling in ours. But it now turns out the opposition’s moral principles are tradeable.

It’ll go easy on Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor if she instructs the justice department to drop court costs for four opposition lawmakers who were recently disqualified. It ominously implied that if she refused, it would give her hell as it did her predecessor, Leung Chun-ying.

Lam tasted that hell last week when opposition lawmakers dragged out debate on her multibillion dollar education plan.

Hong Kong lawmakers approve extra cash for education after angry final session

Disqualified lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung told me in a TV interview that forgoing court costs is no big deal since the disqualification case is civil, not criminal.

I cannot buy that. The rule of law is exactly that, whether civil or criminal. Lam giving directions to her justice minister on an ongoing court case makes us no different from the mainland, where the law is often used as a political tool.

If Lam kowtows in exchange for political harmony, it’ll not only soil our rule of law but create a dangerous precedent. What’s to stop the opposition from demanding that Lam orders the justice department against charging any more Occupy leaders?

Aside from court costs, it has already warned Lam of political confrontation if she tries to disqualify any more lawmakers or pursue national security legislation.

Hong Kong pan-democrats list ways Carrie Lam could mend ties after ouster of four lawmakers

The opposition likes to brand itself as being on the right side of public opinion on everything from so-called true democracy to the rule of law. But how can it take the high road if it readily uses the rule of law as a political bargaining tool yet insists stationing mainland officials at the express railway terminus breaches the rule of law?

Maybe using the law to horse-trade isn’t so bad. Lam can order charges be dropped against Occupy offenders in exchange for the opposition agreeing to joint immigration controls at West Kowloon. Imagine the possibilities if we say to hell with the rule of law. It’ll at least guarantee harmony. Let’s go for being just another mainland city.