Western leaders have been quick to denounce Beijing’s national security law for Hong Kong. Too quick, actually
- With the law’s text not yet revealed, Western leaders have jumped the gun and concluded that it will be oppressive and destroy the Sino-British Joint Declaration. Are Hong Kong and its people pawns in a greater geopolitical agenda?
Lord Patten sees the “one country, two systems” formula as the product of bargaining between Britain and China. The truth is otherwise. As is clear from the joint declaration, the creation of a special administrative region for Hong Kong after the resumption of sovereignty on July 1, 1997 was decided at the outset, with one country, two systems as a basic guiding principle. This took into account “Hong Kong’s history and realities” as stated in the joint declaration.
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More than two decades then elapsed, leaving Hong Kong in breach of the provisions of Article 23 of the Basic Law, which required it to enact effective laws to deal with the whole range of acts endangering national security. This should have been done by Hong Kong soon after the handover in July 1997.
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Might this not turn out to be a great embarrassment for all those leaders, when the text of the laws is revealed?
As things stand today, it is, at best, pure speculation as to how it might all work out. Some might even say that it is more than speculation: it is applied prejudice, or mischief-making.
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Why do all these leaders from overseas think that the laws being crafted in Beijing could or would be used to oppress the people of Hong Kong?
But this is not how a common law court would enforce such law. Common law principles would not allow it.
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The dictionary meaning of “subversion” is the undermining of the power and authority of an established system or institution. In the context of national security, it would be the undermining of government.
This is plainly a most serious crime: not something like a parking offence, where proof of the act is enough to result in conviction, the intention, the reason for parking in the wrong place, being irrelevant.
But, to convict a person of subversion, the prosecution must prove two things beyond reasonable doubt: one, the act constituting subversion, and; two, the intention accompanying the act.
So, as regards the act constituting “subversion”, the court would take judicial notice of the fact that the government is a legally constituted institution with all the lawful forces behind it. As a matter of pure common sense, it would take more than mere words to shake the foundations of such an institution.
As things stand today, the reaction of the Western leaders is so premature, disproportionate and, in the circumstances, so irrational, that it leads one to wonder if there is some other agenda at work. Is all this happening in the context of a much bigger plan? Is a geopolitical chess game being played, with Hong Kong and its people being used as pawns?
Henry Litton is a retired Court of Final Appeal judge and author of Is the Hong Kong Judiciary Sleepwalking to 2047?