Posts Tagged ‘elections’

Following the law

Am I the only person in Hong Kong who is getting a bit fed up with the spectacle of Chinese officials lecturing us on the need to follow the Basic Law, the Law as laid down by the relevant NPC committee, and indeed the law generally. These people know nothing about the rule of law. They do not follow it themselves.

The first thing you have to learn about the Chinese legal system is that China does not have a “legal system” in the sense in which these words are usually understood. The legislature does not legislate, the judges are Party puppets, the constitution is a work of fiction and the secret police do whatever they like, or whatever they are told by party bigwigs. In fact the only part of the “legal system” which conforms to the label on the tin is the prisons.

Under these circumstances it takes a great deal of gall – though not too much apparently – for some bozo in Beijing to deliver a message on the need for lawfulness to Hong Kong people who routinely obey real laws in their daily lives. Basically the law in China means whatever the government wants it to mean at the time. If this is the spirit in which the Basic Law should be interpreted then people should say so, not pretend to be defending a principle of which they know nothing.

One of the so-called “Guardians of the Basic Law” died the other day. The last one, thank goodness. These gentlemen, of whom there were originally four, were wheeled out occasionally to tell us what the Basic Law drafters really meant. It is instructive, in this context, to consider the backgrounds of geriatric legal “experts” in Chinese law. The last guardian to pop his clogs was 85 years old. This means that the rule of law in China was abandoned as a bourgeois relic when he was aged 20. I assume that he was not in a “liberated area” before the Revolution. He was then immersed in the dictatorship of the proletariat until 1978, when the idea first surfaced that some sort of legal system might be a good idea. At that point he was aged 50. Installing this project took maybe another ten years, by which time our guardian had reached the age at which many people retire. By the time the Basic Law had been drafted he was 67. When his memory was being treated as a sort of self-propelled oracle he had reached the age at which many elderly people have trouble remembering their own phone numbers. Clearly this gentleman had a talent. Not, probably, for law though.

Meanwhile we have Hong Kong officials complaining that nobody is making proposals for the next CE election which comply with the legal requirements. Look, ladies and gentlemen, if the legal requirements are so technical that they require half a page of the SCMPost sprinkled with little bits of Latin to explain them, then you should not expect ordinary members of the public to make detailed proposals. It is actually perfectly clear what Hong Kong people want: they want a fair election, which means one in which any candidate who is not ruled out by crime, insanity or some similar defect can campaign for election, and if widely supported can run with a chance of winning. Whether this is achieved through changes to the nominating committee, or the nominating rules, or in some other way, should not be our concern. The government has leaping legions of lawyers who can be prodded from their post-prandial slumbers and asked to design an electoral system which works and meets legal requirements.  Otherwise we shall suspect that this is just another “consultation” which is going to end in the conclusion that public opinion is divided so the government will go ahead with what it was going to do anyway.

Which I fancy means that the next CE election will be as fixed as the last one was. Prepare to be invited to choose between two candidates, each of whom occupies not one but two luxurious houses in the best parts of town, festooned with illegal structures, and who have an unbroken record of dogged sycophancy which has kept them on the lovers of the Liaison office list. I suppose the people who signed the Joint Declaration and drafted the Basic Law may have supposed that a genuine election in 2017 would eventually ocurr. But then was then and now is now. Every change in China’s leadership is accompanied by the widely voiced hope — even prediction — that the new incumbent will be a reformer who thinks it is time human rights were recognised in his country. The hope is always in vain. Only we pessimists are never disappointed.



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