Branding Joshua Wong and friends as political prisoners makes mockery of Hong Kong’s legal system

Will Hongkongers buy Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow’s branding as political prisoners worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize – or mock it as a sick joke?

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 August, 2017, 7:28pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 August, 2017, 7:37pm

Will they emerge as martyrs or ex-cons? We’ll know soon enough when jailed activists Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung, and Alex Chow Yong-kang step out from behind prison gates. That is, if they’re not out sooner on bail pending Court of Final Appeal proceedings.

Different sentences mean they will be released on different days but I’m sure slogan-shouting supporters will greet them outside the prison gates all three times.

Let me guess what the fist-waving supporters will shout when the three step out sporting mandatory prison-style crew cuts.

“Political prisoner! Prisoner of conscience!”

Yes, the opposition will market Wong, Law, and Chow as Hong Kong’s first political prisoners, putting them on the same pedestal as the late Liu Xiaobo, who spent much his life in mainland Chinese jails. Maybe the New York Times will write another piece praising the three as prisoners of conscience jailed on bogus charges by Beijing-bowing judges.

Liu’s place in history as a political prisoner is assured. But will Hongkongers buy the trio’s branding as political prisoners worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize or mock it as a sick joke? Don’t expect the establishment camp to make much headway casting the three as ex-cons who used violence to advance their political cause.

Beijing loyalists are hopelessly outclassed against the opposition in shaping public opinion, even when they hold trump cards like Democratic Party member Howard Lam Tsz-kin’s claim he was abducted by mainland goons. Their impotence stems from the not-totally unfounded public belief they always take their cue from the liaison office rather than from their own conscience.

What worries me is not if Hongkongers will see Wong, Law, and Chow as prisoners of conscience. I know it’s a sick joke to crown them with such a halo. But try telling that to the Mong Kok rioters, Occupy supporters, and those who oppose joint immigration control at the West Kowloon express rail terminus.

What worries me is what it means for our legal system if enough Hongkongers buy the prisoner of conscience absurdity. There can be no political prisoners if there is an independent judiciary that upholds the rule of law. If enough Hongkongers believe Wong, Law, and Chow have become prisoners of conscience, it means they no longer believe in our judges. That will be the start of the end of Hong Kong as we know it.