Agree or not, respect the decisions of judges

The Hong Kong judiciary performs a tough and vital job in a highly politicised society, and its members may be the last bastion of institutional independence

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 September, 2018, 8:36pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 September, 2018, 2:40pm

Our judges must be doing something right. They are being attacked from the left, right and centre, on the whole spectrum of ideological positions.

When they jail violent protesters and rioters, they are denounced for doing the dirty work for the government. When they release others from jail for anti-government protests, they are rounded on by the establishment. Ignorant foreigners comment like experts on the threats to our judiciary. Hot-headed localists think judges are in league with government prosecutors.

It’s a tough and vital job: our judges may be the last bastion of institutional independence. But how long they can hold up in the face of such an onslaught from all sides is anyone’s guess.

The latest report on Hong Kong by the Congressional Research Service, an organ of the US Congress, reads more like propaganda fiction than real analysis. But then, what can we expect?

It claims that our judges are being compromised because they are expected to “love the country”, according to the State Council’s white paper of 2014 on Hong Kong.

Despite the white paper, I am unaware of any local judge being tested on his or her patriotism. Just out of curiosity, don’t Americans expect their judges to love their own country? Well, maybe not!

Pro-Beijing politician's attacks on judges earn rebuke from Lam

On the other hand, our very own Stanley Ng Chau-pei, a local deputy to the National People’s Congress, has denounced the judges of the city’s highest court for freeing 13 activists from jail last week.

The group took part in a protest, which even the top judges described as “extremely violent”, against a government development plan in the northern New Territories.

Ng called the judges “sinners against society”, “old men trying to be nice guys … youth spoilers”, adding: “People should think about how much the rule of law has degenerated.”

In a later post after his original Facebook claims caused a row, he doubled down by singling out Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li and making fun of his Chinese name, which could be interpreted to mean “the law stands”.

“Whether or not the law stands, it’s not all up to Master Ma,” he wrote. “What of the Court of Final Appeal? True justice lies in people’s hearts!”

I so happen to agree with Ng that those 13 miscreants belong in jail. But one thing I know about the rule of law is to respect judicial decisions even if you don’t agree with them.