Go directly to jail: how Hong Kong courts are teaching a lesson on the rules of the game
Philip Bowring says social order and political stability have been ensured for the city, with student activists jailed, the opposition decimated, business as usual for vested interests, and resolve demonstrated to higher powers
Hurrah! Hong Kong is one step further towards matching Singapore’s standard of judicial independence. The punishment should not be designed to fit the crime but to teach lessons, and enable the teacher to demonstrate resolve to the headmaster.
Hence, a wise appeals court agreed this week with the government. It replaced soft community service with substantial jail terms for 13 activists and three student leaders involved in separate 2014 protests. The sophistication and cost of the judicial process should also ensure that four elected politicians ousted earlier from the legislature are bankrupted by their failure to pay government legal costs. Serves them right.
There can be no greater threat to social order and political stability than for spoiled youths to stir up opposition to progress and profit, joining with ignorant New Territories villagers who stand in way of the future, as though their crumbling old houses should be favoured over a Great Leap Forward for the Pearl River Delta region.
Watch: Three student leaders jailed for storming Civic Square
These counter-revolutionaries would sooner sacrifice the exclusive acres of the Hong Kong Golf Club or build homes on the beautiful New Territories scrapyards and container parks, the land banks on which the future wealth of our famous companies depend. Be thankful that our ministers knew whose interests they represent.
True to the Marxist theory and Leninist spirit of our national leaders, the march of history is towards ever more concentrated ownership of capital, ever rising profits which limit the middle and lower classes wasting their wages on comforts. The party is combining with the forces of monopoly capital. This is surely the “end of history” as predicted by our sages. The achievement is a tribute to the genius of the Chinese people and shows why their superior system is rewriting history to ensure that all neighbouring territories were always its vassals.
The tribute sought from the neighbours is, however, a trifling sum compared with what most of the businesses and people of Hong Kong pay to sustain and enhance the traditional local balance of wealth – as enshrined in the Basic Law. The genius of this document is many-sided. Equality of the sexes and equality before the law are listed as goals. But, naturally, some people are far more equal than others. Thus, for example, the local aborigines, unlike their oppressed brethren in Australia and Taiwan, have special land ownership rights.
These sacred sites for worship of ancestors and prayer for wealth date back for as long as the aborigines care to remember – it was 1972 when government officials recognised the utility of such rights in buying the support of patriotic aborigines for colonial projects. These temples are also only open to males, as is appropriate in a China which cleverly melds Confucius with the ever-changing theories of Communist Party leaders. Here there is no fuss about equal rights, gay rights or other impediments to social order.
The notion of legal equality would also have prevented the emergence of the many companies, great and small, built on acquisition of agricultural land, putting it to more profitable use pending eventual development. The wisdom of the government is shown in not enforcing petty laws which are inconvenient for corporate owners, its own departments’ grand development plans, and civil servants’ hopes for early-retirement employment in the private sector.
Watch: Then incoming chief executive Carrie Lam talks about Beijing
The people’s government knows that ever higher land prices are also beneficial. These enable it to record fiscal surpluses that are the envy of the world, while also financing global cost-per-kilometre records for building bridges and tunnels. Additionally, they ensure that civil servants’ generous pensions are underwritten by the public whose own pension fund is guaranteed to keep improvident provider institutions from collapsing under the weight of management bonuses.
Naturally, little Hong Kong cannot absorb all the profits generated by the great companies that own its land and utilities. So, instead of frittering it away on the hare-brained schemes of would-be entrepreneurs in IT, AI, etc, they are safeguarding the people’s future with such forward-looking investments as waterworks in Britain and coal-fired power stations in Australia. Meanwhile, the grand families can still have their fun on the local stock market, playing weighted-dice games of snakes and ladders with local punters, alternately buying and selling bits of the empires they themselves control.
Social stability is further enhanced by the lack of possibility of upsetting the status quo. Executive-led government means exactly that: the executive leads the judiciary. The executive also ensures that legislative troublemakers are unwelcome, as in any well-managed club, and must be blackballed. The other members can then get on with ensuring that the key economic and commercial interests, such as taxi ownership and agriculture, are protected from welfarism and other anti-Confucian concepts.
The system also provides for some of these honourables to keep foreign rights of abode while invoking the spirit of patriotism and love of “one country”. A monastery would be proud of their daily unison singing of the “Belt and Road” mantra.
The Lord be praised that we live in Hong Kong 2017 and have a leader who commands the respect of the judiciary.
Philip Bowring is a Hong Kong-based journalist and commentator