HK judiciary, rule of law under attack: Paul Shieh

Former Bar Association chairman Paul Shieh says Hong Kong people need to guard against threats to the rule of law. Photo: RTHK

Former Bar Association chairman Paul Shieh says Hong Kong people need to guard against threats to the rule of law. Photo: RTHK

A former Bar Association chairman, Paul Shieh, warned on Thursday that Hong Kong’s rule of law and the independence of the judiciary are coming under attack from the mainland and people have to be vigilant against such threats “before it’s too late”.

While railing against mainland criticism of foreign judges in Hong Kong, and claiming that Basic Law interpretations have affected the rule of law, Shieh also warned that the SAR government appears to have a different understanding of what rule of law actually means.

In an RTHK interview, Shieh said the SAR authorities’ definition of the rule of law as being merely “executing or obeying the law” is too narrow and simple and would mislead the public into misunderstanding the “spirit” of the rule of law. 

He noted that some activists had broken the law during the occupy movement in 2014, but said as long as their arrests and prosecutions are conducted with transparency, the rule of law will not be impaired. 

However, Shieh warned that the rule of law would be damaged if people don’t obey court rulings, or criticise judges merely for the sake of venting their emotions. 

He added that mainland attacks on Hong Kong’s judiciary should be condemned and said recent inflammatory comments in mainland media would lead people to believe such criticism was ordered by Beijing officials. 

Shieh also said of the five interpretations of the Basic Law by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee since the handover, two had been quite “shocking”. 

He said the 1999 interpretation concerning the right of abode of mainland children whose parents are Hong Kong residents, and last year’s interpretation over the Legco oath-taking controversy, had both caused concern because they were made during or after proceedings in a Hong Kong court. 

He said the two interpretations had affected the rule of law and the independence of Hong Kong’s judiciary. 

The senior counsel said he believed Beijing had become tougher and tougher with the SAR because it may have misjudged the situation in the territory. 

He said he hopes that over the next term of government, the Secretary for Justice will reflect Hong Kong’s situation and the views of the legal sector to the central government in an honest manner.