One of our columns is missing (again)

Big Lychee, Various Sectors

After the Asia Society in Hong Kong was found to be barring government critics, attention turned to the NGO’s top benefactor tycoon Ronnie Chan, whose pro-Beijing and anti-democracy views were then highlighted in an online Forbes column, which was swiftly excised from the magazine’s website. (As an aside: one of the banished pro-dems concerned was recently involved in this rather exquisite stunt.)

Now something similar happens to Shirley Yam’s piece in yesterday’s South China Morning Post. Although there was no solid proof, the veteran and highly respected journalist offered plentiful circumstantial evidence that a couple who sound very much like the daughter and son-in-law of China’s emerging number-two Li Zhanshu are up to their ears in what looks very much like a plain old typical Mainland princeling billionaire offshore asset splurge in Hong Kong, right down to the posing-like-idiot-next-to-race-horse thing.

Of course, there could be another woman in Hong Kong called Li Qianxin – the exotic 栗 Li, not the common 李 riffraff – though less fastidious local press happily assert that she is the daughter, and the pair are dropping everything and running back to the mainland, etc.

Shirley Yam, who frequently covers sensitive Mainland/markets-related murk with necessary discretion, chose her words very carefully. Nonetheless, the SCMP pulled the column, issuing a statement feigning shock at a supposed lapse in editorial standards and whining about ‘multiple unverifiable insinuations’. (‘Multiple’ in this situation surely means ‘more convincing’, but anyway…)

This is a bit rich. Lesser SCMP hacks (today, indeed) routinely slander Hong Kong’s pro-democrat politicians with specious United Front smears. The explanation must be that Shirley Yam was getting too close to one of Xi Jinping’s ‘red lines’. Given the book-seller abductions, maybe the SCMP censors are doing her a favour.

Anyway, the offending article is still on-line here, and ‘the vanishing story’ could end up becoming a story in its own right. That’s what happened to the disappearance of the Forbes piece, which Asia Sentinel are the latest to report, complete with offending column in its entirety for the three people on Tierra Del Fuego who still haven’t seen it (plus gratuitous dredging-up of Ronnie Chan’s involvement at Enron, after all these years).

(Update: gone from above link, but spotted here.)

The irony is that if the cringing shoe-shiners hadn’t removed these columns, fewer people would have noticed them. For a similar example, Google ‘Winnie the Pooh Xi Jinping’…

Carrie Lam reconciliation plan relies on pro-Beijing camp -Yu Kam-yin

EJ Insight » Hong Kong

As the High Court decision last Friday to disqualify four localist lawmakers has thrown the pan-democrats into disarray and taken a heavy toll on relations between the executive branch and the legislature, it appears that Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s painstaking efforts to facilitate reconciliation with the opposition are bound to go up in smoke.

The pan-democratic camp is now on a war footing against the administration, and some members in the opposition have recently set several conditions for a “truce” with the government as a last-ditch effort to prevent an all-out confrontation between the two sides.

However, it seems the majority of mainstream pan-democrats are not keen on a “truce” with the administration, as none of them echoed these conditions after a roundtable meeting in the pan-democratic camp on Monday.

Besides, some of the conditions offered by these opposition members are simply too difficult for the government to meet.

For example, one condition is that the administration must promise not to seek recovery from the four disqualified lawmakers of the court costs incurred by the Department of Justice.

Yet, it is difficult for the government to meet this condition because it involves public money, not to mention the fact that the lawsuits are not over yet as the four lawmakers may appeal against their disqualification.

Likewise, it would also prove difficult for the government to meet another condition that it must not hold the by-elections for the six vacant Legco seats (the four localist lawmakers plus the Youngspiration duo who were already disqualified last year) in one go in order to allow the pan-democrats to reclaim all their lost territories.

It is because it would be hard for the government to justify spending extra taxpayers’ money to hold the by-elections successively just for the sake of the pan-democrats.

As for another condition that the administration must not take advantage of the fact that the pan-democrats have been crushed and become the minority in Legco and seize the opportunity to amend the current Rules of Procedure of Legco in order to ban filibusters, government sources said the executive branch has no say in this matter because it is purely an internal affair of the legislature.

And since the pro-establishment camp now holds the majority of seats in both the functional and geographical constituencies, it is therefore entirely up to it to decide whether to amend the Rules of Procedure so as to seal their total victory. However, sources also added that the government hopes that the pro-Beijing camp would go easy on the pan-democrats over this issue in order not to further fuel the current touch-and-go situation in Legco.

Yet, given the presently intense excitement within the pro-Beijing camp at the disqualification of the four localist lawmakers, it would be a daunting task for Carrie Lam to talk them into being more lenient on the pan-democrats.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 18

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Carrie Lam must avoid rubbing salt into the pan-democrats’ wound -HKEJ Editorial

EJ Insight » Hong Kong

The High Court decision last Friday to disqualify four lawmakers has dealt a death blow to the pan-democrats and completely upset the balance of power in the Legislative Council.

Worse still, the saga is far from over yet, and the pan-democrats could suffer further loss of seats over the next few months as two other localist lawmakers, Cheng Chung-tai representing the Civic Passion and the independent Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, will stand trial on July 26 for allegedly failing to take their oath of office properly, not to mention at least five other pan-democratic lawmakers who have come under heat over the same issue. All of them could potentially face disqualification.

While no one can dispute that the administration must respect court decisions, since observing the rule of law is among the core values embraced by the people of Hong Kong, there is an urgent question lying before Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and her government: how should they react to the present political crisis of unprecedented proportions within the pan-democratic camp?

Our answer to this question is simple and clear: since mending fences with the opposition and improving relations between the government and the legislature lie at the heart of Carrie Lam’s “new deal”, the last thing she should do right now when the pan-democrats are in total disarray is to milk their current misery for all it is worth and rub salt into their wounds.

In particular, as the pro-establishment camp is now controlling both the functional and geographical constituencies, Lam must avoid taking advantage of that fact and try to push highly controversial and unpopular legislative initiatives such as the enactment of Article 23 of the Basic Law.

It is because if Lam did that, it would not only further antagonize the pan-democrats and completely spoil her efforts in facilitating a relaxed political atmosphere both within Legco and society as a whole, it would also take a heavy toll on Lam’s own popularity.

On the other hand, if the pan-democrats are willing to keep politics out of public issues, such as the government’s HK$3.6 billion funding bill on new education initiatives, and place public interests above their own at today’s Legco financial committee meeting, then in our opinion Lam should seriously consider returning the favor to the pan-democrats by going easy on the four disqualified lawmakers over seeking full recovery of their salaries and all the reimbursable expenses related to their office as lawmakers.

It is because unlike the Youngspiration duo Sixtus Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching, who had been disqualified even before the official commencement of their term of office as lawmakers back in October 2016, the four recently disqualified lawmakers did serve as full-time Legislative Councillors over the past nine months, during which they have fully and diligently carried out their official duties.

Therefore, it is open to question whether the administration should seek full recovery of their salaries, allowances and reimbursable expenses. In fact even some in the pro-establishment camp have reservations about making them return all the money.

As such, we believe if Lam and her government insists on “doing it by the book” and recovering all the money from the four disqualified lawmakers, it would definitely work against the new chief executive’s election promise of mending fences in Legco.

As far as the question of taking advantage of the current clear majority of the pro-Beijing camp in Legco and pressing ahead with controversial bills is concerned, we definitely think such strategy is not worth pursuing at all. That is because if the administration chooses to act otherwise, it will risk provoking another massive resistance movement in society.

According to a recent poll conducted by the School of Communication of the Hong Kong Baptist University, 67 percent of the respondents, who are predominantly university students, said if the government tries to push any bill to enact Article 23 of the Basic Law through Legco right now, they will definitely take to the streets and oppose it either peacefully or violently.

And 10.5 percent even said they would definitely fight back in face of police crackdown. We believe the government should take the poll results seriously and not underestimate the scale of possible public backlash against any controversial legislative initiative at this sensitive time.

In our opinion, what Lam and her administration should do right now, apart from avoiding pushing any controversial bill through Legco, is to stay put and wait for all the legal proceedings over the disqualification challenges to be completed, and then hold by-elections for the vacant Legco seats properly.

No matter what is lying in store, it is our sincere belief that Lam should stick to her election promise of repairing relations in our highly polarized society. She must not go back on her word on this fundamental issue.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 18

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Lam, opposition must work together to resolve political deadlock -SC Yeung

EJ Insight » Hong Kong

The crackdown on the democratic camp is well underway, despite the new administration’s pledge to heal the divisions in society.

So far six pan-democrat lawmakers have lost their seats in the Legislative Council as a result of the court rulings on their behavior when they took their oaths of office last October, and two more could be added to the list.

The rulings were based on a National People’s Congress interpretation of the Basic Law, showing that even a Hong Kong court of law, despite the city’s much-vaunted autonomy and judicial independence, is under Beijing’s authority. 

The pan-democrats must stand firm against the court rulings and push the new administration to settle the political crisis.

The disqualification lawsuits were initiated by the former chief executive Leung Chun-ying, who also proactively sought Beijing’s intervention, prompting the NPC to come out with an interpretation of the Basic Law as it pertained to their cases.

Carrie Lam, the new chief executive, wants the people to know that she is different from her predecessor, and is eager to reach out to the pan-democrats to bridge the social and political divide.

But she insists that the court rulings must be respected.

The issue may spill over to Legco’s deliberation of her request for HK$3.6 billion funding for education for the new school year.

However, the democrats have decided to focus discussions on the education funding item alone. They are also under pressure from the education sector, a major source of support, to give the green light to Lam’s initiative in a bid to hire more teachers for local schools.

But the democrats have no clear stand on the seven other spending requests before the Finance Committee. Democratic Party lawmaker James To warned that “all the things will become abnormal” after the court issued a ruling disqualifying four pan-democrat lawmakers last week.

The opposition appears to be offering an olive branch to Lam and leaving room for both sides to discuss their future cooperation in the legislature.

But the democrats’ unclear stance on seven other budgetary items is clearly meant to show their anger over the disqualification issue.

While Lam has said she has no plans to bring more lawmakers to court for their oath-taking behavior, a pro-establishment media outfit said on Tuesday that at least ten more lawmakers who had been sued earlier could be disqualified based on the court judgement last Friday.

That means the pan-democratic camp could lose up to 16 seats in the legislature. Given that the lawsuits against the eight lawmakers were filed by private individuals, the government can say that it cannot do anything but await the court judgement.

But Lam can still do something to show her sincerity to the opposition, and that is by upholding the fairness and transparency of the potential by-elections resulting from the vacant Legco seats, and by not putting forward controversial bills for Legco approval before the by-elections, which would be interpreted as taking advantage of the loss of opposition seats in the legislature.

Speaking to reporters before the weekly Executive Council meeting on Tuesday, the chief executive promised she would not relaunch political reform or introduce the controversial Article 23 (national security) legislation before by-elections take place to fill the seats of the disqualified pro-democracy lawmakers.

Lam also said it has not been decided yet whether one or two rounds of by-elections will be held in view of the ongoing legal proceedings. She also stressed that it was Legco’s decision to urge the six lawmakers to return the amounts corresponding to the salaries and operating expenses they had received before their disqualification.

Lam is obviously employing the friendly approach in dealing with the opposition. She wants the pan-democrats to know that she is acting in good faith, noting that she could be labeled CY 2.0 if she tried to pass the controversial bills during this period.

Her remarks on the by-election arrangement also indicated the government could remain neutral until the end of all legal proceedings related to the disqualification cases. Meanwhile, pro-Beijing lawmakers have urged the government to hold all the by-elections in one go to save money.

The fact is, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong made the recommendation as an election strategy. In some districts with more than one seat vacant, the pro-Beijing camp could get most of the seats by using the proportional representation mechanism, rather than single-seat, single-vote system, as the latter would favor the opposition candidates.

Both Lam and the democrats need to work cautiously to resolve the political crisis initiated by the former administration.

The people can see if the new government will handle this crisis by upholding the core values of fairness, justice and transparency. The democrats, on the other hand, should follow the guidelines when taking their oaths of office to show their sincerity and maintain their strength in Legco.

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Oath-Gate and some questions | Big Lychee, Various Sectors

According to the South China Morning Post’s calculations, at least nine more Hong Kong Legislative Council members could be at risk of disqualification for retroactively incorrect oath-taking. That’s in addition to those already being barred from office.

In some ways, it would be great if this happened: the disappearance of over a dozen popularly elected (and several quite smart) members would conclusively expose the Legislative Council as a rigged rubber-stamp body, and deprive the whole political structure of any remaining shreds of credibility. More likely, the Communist Party will hope that by axing a few, it can intimidate the others into playing along with an increasingly Mainland-style fake representative system. (If they are doing their United Front work diligently, Beijing’s local officials will have sorted these enemies into different groups to be expunged, turned against one another, or possibly tamed and lured into submission.)

For a detailed breakdown of how the government can take advantage of a neutered legislature, see here. But the powers that be are in a quandary. In theory, they can ram through ultra-sensitive measures like Article 23, national education or quasi-universal suffrage – but only at the risk of provoking street protests. And it would dash hand-wringing Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s already-desperate hopes of uniting everyone behind livelihood issues. In their obsessive determination to attack and crush splittists, the Liaison Office enforcers are making Hong Kong less governable rather than more effectively authoritarian.

Oath-Gate is doing even greater damage to Hong Kong’s legal system – making it clear that Beijing is willing and able to re-write the law and apply it retroactively for purely political reasons. While idealists and purists quoted by HK Free Press might complain, the Progressive Lawyers Group’s Kevin Yam is surely realistic when he says local courts are ultimately powerless. This is how a one-party state and Leninist dictatorship uses the law.

Two questions come to mind.

First: is there still any reason for critics of government in Hong Kong to engage in formal, constitutional politics? Even the old traditional Democratic Party moderates must be wondering whether constructive participation within ever-tightening rules makes sense. Why lend the system credibility as Beijing makes it less representative?

Second: if the Communist Party can trash Hong Kong’s legal principles over lawmakers’ oaths, when else might it, on a whim, rewrite the law and hijack the courts? The unofficial-official reassurance is that splittists crossed a ‘red line’, and Beijing will continue to respect rule of law on this side of the border in all other respects (leaving aside occasional can’t-be-helped abductions). But having done it this sweepingly on this occasion, and finding it so easy and effective to impose ‘rule of man’ here, can a paranoid one-party dictatorship restrain itself in future?

JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE IN HONG KONG | William Waung (retired High Court judge) 29-07-2015

【Text: William Waung (retired High Court judge)】


Silent March 2014 against The Beijing White Paper

1. In June 2014, in response to the Beijing White Paper calling for the requirement of patriotism by Hong Kong Judges, the lawyers of Hong Kong in support of judicial independence, organized a Silent March.  The Silent March was attended by some 1,800 lawyers.  Both the Hong Kong media as well as the international press reported on this event.

2. What is the significance of that Silent March. It expressed the strong concern in Hong Kong, specially of those involved in the practice of the law, that judicial independence could be under threat and required defending.

3. What is so important about judicial independence in Hong Kong that drew the large attention of the media in Hong Kong?  The best way to explain this is to start from 1997, when Basic Law became Hong Kong’s constitutional document and the Court of Final Appeal (“CFA”) started sitting.


Sir Anthony Mason in the CFA as embodiment and symbol of

HK Judicial Independence

4. The Basic Law provides for Hong Kong to exercise and enjoy independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication (Art. 2 and Art. 19).

5. The Basic Law provides for the power of final adjudication in Hong Kong to be vested in the Court of Final Appeal which may as required invite judges from other common law jurisdictions to sit on the CFA  (Art. 82)

6. The Basic Law provides the courts of Hong Kong to exercise judicial power independently, free from any interference.  Members of the judiciary shall be immune from legal action in the performance of their judicial functions (Art. 85).

7. The Basic Law provides for the appointment of the Judges of Hong Kong on the recommendation of an independent commission (Art. 88).

8. The Basic Law provides that a judge of the Court of Hong Kong may only be removed for inability to discharge his or her duties or for misbehavior, by the Chief Executive (“CE”) on the recommendation of a tribunal appointed by the Chief Justice (“CJ”) of the CFA and consisting of not less than 3 local judges (Art. 89).   In the case of removal of the CJ of the CFA on the above grounds, the tribunal appointed by the CE shall consist of not less than 5 local judges (Art. 89).

9. The Basic Law provides that in the case of the appointment and removal of Judges of the CFA and the Chief Judge of the High Court, the CE shall in addition to the Art. 88-89 procedures, also obtain the endorsement of the Legislative Council (Art 90).

10. The Basic Law provides that the HK SAR Government shall pay to judges who retire or leave the service or to their dependents, all pensions, gratuities, allowances and benefits due to them on terms no less favourable than before, irrespective of their nationality or place of residence (Art. 93).

11. All the above provisions of the Basic Law, which reflect the Joint Declaration between Great Britain and China are to ensure that the people of Hong Kong would continue post 1997 to enjoy as before, the same kind of freedom and justice under a judicial system where judicial independence would be the continuing basis of public confidence.

12. A particular important aspect of measures to ensure public confidence is that the final court of appeal in Hong Kong would consist not only of local Permanent Judges (‘PJ”) but also distinguished visiting judges from common law jurisdictions to be known as Non Permanent Judges (“NPJ”).

13. The early success of the CFA was due largely to the vision and wisdom of Andrew Li, the first CJ of the CFA in appointing some of the most prominent judges from the common law world which includes Sir Anthony Mason, Lord Coke, Lord Millett and   Lord Hoffman.

14. It is to be noted that none of these prominent overseas judges would accept appointments as NPJ if they were not confident that Hong Kong would continue to enjoy true judicial independence.

15. Sir Anthony Mason is a particularly important Non Permanent Judge.  As one of the most distinguished former Chief Justices of the High Court of Australia (a Court held in the highest esteem in the international common law world), from day one he assisted the first Chief Justice, Andrew Li to ensure that the HK Judiciary would function and perform to the highest expectation of the international legal world and would continue to have true judicial independence.

16. Sir Anthony sat in the CFA on some of the most difficult early cases including cases of controversial interpretation by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (Art. 158).  HK Judiciary survived these testing times, with Hong Kong’s judicial independence intact, or at least the perception of judicial independence. 

17. Perception of judicial independence is the key to judicial independence.  This is an aspect often spoken on by Sir Anthony Mason and indeed by many of his Australian Judges of the High Court. Judicial Independence is a matter of the greatest importance in Australia and to the Australian people. Judicial independence is one of the most robust and fertile subjects of public discussions in Australia as shown by regular and important judicial lectures and conferences on judicial independence, going back from at least the early eighties up to recently in July 2015 when Sir Anthony Mason gave the keynote speech in the 2 days Conference on Judicial Independence in Australia.

18. In 1981, Sir Ninian Stephen of the Australian High Court at his trail blazing Southeby Memorial Lecture on judicial independence, made reference to the essential public confidence that accompanies judicial independence which is more easily destroyed than built up. He made this legendary statement on judicial independence:-

“an independent judiciary, although a formidable protector of individual liberty, is at the same time a very vulnerable institution, a fragile bastion indeed .”

19. In November 1996, Sir Gerard Brennan, who succeeded Sir Anthony Mason as Chief Justice in 1995, gave the speech on Judicial Independence at the Australian Judicial Conference.   He said:

“… the object of the Australian Judicial Conference is … in the public interest, to ensure the maintenance of a strong and independent judiciary as the third arm of the government in Australia. ……. judicial independence exists to serve and protect not the governors but the governed …. The reason why judicial independence is of such public importance is that a free society exists only so long as it is governed by the rule of law – the rule which binds the governors and the governed, administered impartially and treating equally all those who seek its remedies or against whom its remedies are sought….. there is an aspiration in the hearts of all men and women for the rule of law.

That aspiration depends for its fulfilment on the competent and impartial application of the law by judges.  In order to discharge that responsibility, it is essential that judges be, and be seen to be, independent….. modern decisions are so varied and important that independence must be predicated of any influence that might tend, or be thought reasonably to tend, to a want of impartiality in decision.  Independence of the Executive Government is central to the notion but it is no longer the only independence that is relevant.

Appearance, no less than the reality, of independence is essential.  The judiciary, the least dangerous branch of the government, has public confidence as its necessary but sufficient power base.  It has not got nor does it need the power of the purse or the power of the sword to make the rule of law effective, provided the people whom we serve have confidence in the exercise of the power of judgment…..

Today the community looks to the courts to adjudicate disputes in areas extending far beyond the areas of jurisdiction invoked 50 years ago. Reposing that function in the judiciary, the community examines judicial performance of the function more critically than hitherto. Of course, this development demonstrates the confidence of the community in the judicial branch of the government: a confidence that is not misplaced so long as independence from impermissible influences is jealously maintained.”

20. In 1997, the Sir Anthony wrote the leading Article in a book dedicated to examine the contemporary state of judicial independence in Australia, “Judicial Bastion – Judicial Independence in the Nineties and Beyond”.  The Title of his Article is Appointment and Removal of Judges, a specific but important aspect of judicial independence which will be discussed in a later section of this Paper.  

21. In 2002, the unexpected Asian economic downturn created a situation in Hong Kong where civil servants were forced by the Government to take a statutory pay cut. The HK Government tried to include the Judiciary in the statutory pay cut. The Judiciary under the Chief Justice Andrew Li strongly resisted this serious encroachment on judicial independence. The Judiciary commissioned Sir Anthony Mason to produce a Consultancy Report on the System for the Determination of Judicial Remuneration.  The February 2003 Mason Report examined with great care:-

– Judicial service pay system in Hong Kong (Chap. 2)
– Judicial Independence – a constitutional principle (Chap. 3)
– Judicial Remuneration – Positions in Various Jurisdictions (Chap. 4)
– Recent Reviews of Systems of Judicial Remuneration (Chap. 5).

22. Chapter 3 contains the important analysis of the inter relationship between judicial independence and reduction in judicial remuneration.  The Report at paragraph 3.3 to  3.7 said:-

“3.3 … To protect judicial independence, it is necessary to ensure that the judges’ remuneration package is and continues from time to time to be sufficient and that is properly protected from reduction or erosion.

3.4 Direct reduction of judicial remuneration is an obvious violation of judicial independence.  An indirect reduction of judicial remuneration is also a violation of judicial independence.

3.5 Further, the allocation of adequate resources is essential for the functioning of an independent Judiciary….

3.7 In Hong Kong, the Basic Law incorporates a separation of powers. It fully recognizes the principle of judicial independence and the institution of an independent judiciary.”

23. In the Final Chapter on Recommendations, Sir Anthony Mason said at paragraph 6.3, 6.4 and 6.10:;-

“6.3 Constitutional or legislative prohibition of reduction in judicial remuneration is an essential element of judicial independence.  The prohibition is absolute in all the jurisdictions reviewed in this Report except Canada.  In addition to England and Wales, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, other major jurisdictions (with a common law tradition or elements) which have absolute prohibitions include India, Ireland, Malaysia, Philippines and South Africa.

6.4 The presence of the absolute prohibition in all such major jurisdictions means that it is widely accepted safeguard for the protection of judicial independence.  The rationale of an absolute prohibition is that the principle of judicial independence is so fundamental that any risk of its jeopardy must be avoided.


6.10 An absolute prohibition should be adopted in Hong Kong. It fully protects judicial independence… The case for an absolute prohibition in Hong Kong is stronger than in other jurisdictions such as Canada, Australia and the United States where judges, after retiring, can return to private practice.  Retired judges cannot do so in Hong Kong … Hong Kong Judges, who sacrifice higher remuneration on appointment to the bench, are therefore more dependent on their judicial remuneration than judges in other jurisdictions.”

24. Recommendation 1 of the Mason Report is that legislation should be enacted prohibiting absolutely any reduction in judicial remuneration.  The Mason Report made a total of 9 Recommendations.

25. The Government accepted the critical importance of judicial independence. The Government did not proceed with the proposed Judiciary pay cut.

26. The Hong Kong public accepted the decision that the Judiciary be exempted from the proposed pay cut. Why did the people of Hong Kong whose aspiration for democracy and equality is known to be so strong, seem to accept this unequal (or special) treatment of the Judges. Was this because the Hong Kong public appreciated that judicial independence is more important than the equal treatment of the temporary cut.

27. Although the people of Hong Kong did not know all the components of judicial independence, they know the final product of these components, which make up judicial independence, is not only essential for Hong Kong but essential for the long term protection of the Hong Kong people (the governed per Brennan at para. 19) from the Hong Kong Government and from Beijing (the governors per Brennan at para. 19).

28. Sir Anthony Mason who wrote the Mason Report is well known in Hong Kong.  His judicial work in Hong Kong was intimately connected with the high quality impartial discharge of judicial function applying the law and the large community and political forces which tend to influence the impartial decision of the CFA. From the early controversial decisions on right of abode to the latest decision on sovereign immunity, all involving interpretation by NPC, Sir Anthony Mason was in many ways the embodiment and symbol of Hong Kong Judicial Independence.   


Components of Judicial Independence

29. When judicial independence is referred to, the underlying assumption is that there is a good judiciary to serve the people, which requires judicial independence to enable it to carry out its proper function. Therefore the first component of judicial independence is a good judiciary consisting of competent professional judges. 

30. There is a well established system in Hong Kong for the appointment of Judges by an independent statutory body. From 1997, the Hong Kong Judicial Officers Recommendation Commission (“JORC”) pursuant to the Ordinance of the same name, has been the statutory body responsible for the appointment of Judges.  Membership of JORC consists of the CJ, the Secretary of Justice (“SJ”), two Judges, one barrister, one solicitor and three lay members not connected with the practice of the law.  The statute does not permit members of the Legislative Council or civil servants to be members of JORC.  The selection process is secret but it is known to be on merit.  It is the function of JORC to appoint highly skilled professional lawyers as Judges who can be expected to be independent.  

31. To induce highly skilled professional lawyers to join the HK Judiciary, it is necessary for the Judges so appointed to have both security of tenure as well as a sufficient judicial financial package. The Judges are appointed until the retirement age of 65 and there is therefore a long tradition in Hong Kong of security of tenure for the Judges.

32. The sufficiency of judicial remuneration has been a matter of some difficulty specially in the recruitment of highly skilled senior professional lawyers for the High Court, as there is a substantial difference in pay between the income of highly skilled senior lawyers in the private sector and the judicial remuneration package offered by the Judiciary. The adequacy of judicial remuneration is overseen by an independent body, the Standing Committee on Judicial Salaries and Conditions of Service (“Judicial Committee”) which recommends to the Government the appropriate level of judicial remuneration for every level of the Judiciary.   

33. Security of Judges from capricious removal is assured by provision in the Basic Law.  Any such removal can only be by an independent tribunal on publicly shown grounds of inability or misbehavior. There has been no case in Hong Kong of removal of a Judge.

34. Judiciary and its Judges can only function properly if it is adequately funded for all its operation. There is no legislative protection in Hong Kong for such adequate funding of the Judiciary to ensure its proper operation. Mason Report in Recommendation 2 makes such recommendation as will be discussed below.  But as a matter of practice, both the Government as well as LegCo have shown from past performance that there would be adequate funding for the Judiciary. 

35. The institutional protection of judicial independence is a subject addressed by the Basic Law. But the Basic Law does not make any specific reference to personal independence of the Judges.  This leads me to the final section, my personal view on Judicial Independence in present day Hong Kong and in future.


Personal View on Hong Kong Judicial Indepedence, Now and the Future

36. With judicial independence, the Judges individually and the Judiciary collectively, can discharge its proper function – namely independent, impartial, neutral, efficient and high-quality professional adjudication.      

37. Traditionally, the judicial independence was directed against independence from the executive Government and from the legislature. But times have changed. The Government and the legislature have often gone into alliance and the courts are often left to be the last bastion for the protection of minorities, individuals or unpopular causes against the encroachment of their legal interests by powerful political and business interests in Hong Kong. As can be seen from the various speeches and articles coming from the Judiciary Conferences in Australia, pressure can be directed against the Judges from many quarters such as the community, the press, interest groups etc.

38. What is not sufficiently appreciated is the vital importance of personal independence of the Judge. Justice Barak, the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Israel said this:

“Personal independence is independence from relatives and friends, independence from the litigating parties, independence from fellow judges and judges responsible for managing the system (including the president or chief judge of the court), independence from officeholders in the other branches of government.  The judge’s master is the law.  The judge has no other master.  From the moment a person is appointed as a judge, he must act without any dependence on any one.”

39. The life of a Judge is a very lonely one, as by necessity he must always guard against any impermissible influence or even appearance of influence from any quarter that might have an adverse bearing on his independent, impartial, neutral, efficient and high-quality professional adjudication.

40. One story will be sufficient illustration of the concept of personal independence. When I was a Judge, my social engagements were very limited, confined to family, very close personal friends and very few lawyer friends. When my wife and I attended invited social dinners from time to time, another invited lawyer guest would often at the last minute send his excuses for non-attendance because he was involved in a current case in my court. That lawyer knew that otherwise I would be forced to excuse myself from attending the dinner. This is common practice in Hong Kong to avoid giving rise to any appearance of unacceptable influence on the Judge.  This is to be contrasted for example from the judicial scene in China where it is not considered unacceptable for PRC lawyers currently engaged in a case to speak privately to the PRC Judge, quite often about the case.  

41. What cannot be known to the outside is the internal pressure on personal independence in the HK Judiciary on his ability to fully discharge his judicial function as Judge.  There is unknown pressure on Hong Kong Judges by excessive work load, inadequate system of fair distribution of judicial workload, no proper management of court lists by court leaders, no proper learning of case management techniques or introduction of new procedures to cope with increasingly complex litigation.   Judges are constantly known to take holiday leave (running into days) in order to write their outstanding judgments.  Demands made on modern Judges, even on those few who can be said to be highly skilled senior professionals and who are natural pro-active Judges are formidable.  All these and other pressure often lead to pressure from higher Judges or fellow Judges or appearance of such pressure, which could have an adverse impact on the end product of the impartial adjudication by the Judge.  These are aspects which have received little attention in Hong Kong and particularly disturbing is that it is largely unknown (except within the Judiciary) by those who ought to be concerned such as the JORC, the Secretary of Justice, the law professors, the LegCo members responsible for the administration of justice, the legal profession and the media.

42. JORC should be the first body to be concerned as the selection of professional lawyers for appointment as Judge should not be exclusively be concerned with high professional ability of the candidate.  As Sir Anthony Mason pointed out in his July 2015 Key Note Speech in the Judicial Independence Conference:-

When we look for new judges, we should only have candidates who are known for their independence. (Rule Of Law)

43. Therefore the character of lawyers being considered for appointment as Judges should be a matter of primary importance.  Reputation of independence of character is not an everyday quality in either solicitors or barristers but it is a quality recognized and known. A weakness of character in a lawyer (irrespective of intelligence and ability) should be a warning to JORC.  The same reasoning applies to appointment of junior judge to a higher court. The character of independence of the junior judge ought to be a key factor in the determination.    

44. Independence of character in the Judge must be the primary quality sought in a Judge. As Sir Harry Gibbs of the Australian High Court put it, judicial independence:-

“means that no judge should have anything to hope for or fear in respect of anything which he or she may have done properly in the course of performing judicial functions.”

45. Hope and fear are normal human characteristics.  Even for Judges, how many can say they do not hope for advancement or approval or they do not fear criticism or disapproval.

46. The strength of character of independence to a large extent also depends on ability.  A lawyer or a judge who has a deep knowledge and understanding of the law is more likely to have the intellectual capacity to express and defend his views.  But not every lawyer or judge who has the knowledge and capacity will also have the character to express and defend his views. The strength of character can be sometimes seen in the presentation of barristers before the Court and the way the barrister defend his views, specially against sometimes the onslaught of a Judge without an open-mind.  Strength of character can also be seen in the judgment of Judges, whether at first instance or in appellate courts.  At first instance, strength of character as well as ability can be detected in the refusal to take the easy route of following blindly precedent when justice calls for fresh thinking on the law. In the appellate court, the delivery of dissenting judgement requires courage, character and high ability, specially when it is against the current.  The system of common law legal system is a study of the developing power and strength of its jurisprudence contributed in no small measure by the system of dissenting judgments. This is largely in contrast to the old fashioned continental legal system which depends on one single judgment of the court.  Legendary Dissenting Judgments such as that of Lord Atkin in the 1941 war time case of Liversidge v Andersonor Mason, J. in 1982 Hospital Products Ltd. on fiduciary obligation are testaments to the strength of character of those Judges. Australia is of course a land of legendary strong independent Judges. Not for nothing that the Australian Judges for years refused to sit in the Privy Council until the Privy Council in 1966 changed its Order and allowed Dissenting Opinions to be given. Australia has always understood that today’s dissent and its reasoning could be the law of the land in 5 or 10 years time.  Dissenting Judgment encourages critical thinking and puts pressure on every member of the appellate court to put on its full thinking cap.  Dissenting judgment discourages laziness in the appellate court as in a tight case, every member of the appellate court must give their separate judgment with their articulated reasons.  Dissent is often the best manifestation of judicial independence.

47. Connected to dissent and strength of character is the important virtue of open-mindedness of a Judge in impartial adjudication. Open-mindedness is the willingness of a Judge to consider views that are opposed to his personal preconceptions but the Judge is open to persuasion.  It is a crucial quality required for a fair and impartial adjudication but it is often found missing.  Strength of character and certain amount of humility is required for a Judge to listen to an argument contrary to his preconception and be prepared to change his mind.  Chang of mind of a Judge after hearing argument contrary to his preconception is often a sign of strength of character and not weakness.  At the opposite end, is the Judge who has no inclination or character of open-mindedness. The Judge has already decided and would not allow any waste of time. In such a Court, whether at first instance or the Court of Appeal, a case set down for 3 days will finish in 10 minutes.  This happens more often than it should, and clearly does not give the impression of impartiality expected from the Court and in the long run, erodes the confidence of the public in the law and in the fairness of adjudication by the Judiciary.           

48. There are at present a number of aspects of the HK Judiciary which are not ideal in relation to Judicial Independence. I will here mention a few.

49. The recruitment of the top senior lawyers to join the judiciary is not easy (as there is a very large drop in income) and I understand it is a constant struggle to persuade the very best to join the senior Judiciary.  The intake of the senior Judiciary in Hong Kong has a much larger percentage of in-house promotion from the District Court than say the equivalent in UK or Australia.  Inevitably, these younger Judges would command less expertise and experience than when the UK Silks used to be appointed to the Hong Kong High Court Bench. They would also have less confidence specially when the very best UK Silks are appearing before them. If they are not strong and independent, the quality of the justice can sometimes suffer.  This is a long term difficulty which must be faced.

50. The inability to recruit the right lawyers to the senior Judiciary has resulted in a perpetual lack of Judges in the Court of First Instance.  We have seen specially from the last 10 years, an extraordinary large numbers of temporary judges sitting more or less on a permanent basis.  At first instance in the High Court, often there are as many deputy judges sitting, as regular Judges sitting. The system of regular deployment of large number of temporary judges (many who are retired Judges of over 65) is a serious erosion of the principle of judicial independence, as temporary judges are serving, without independent appointment, without permanent tenure and without security and they serve at the pleasure of the Chief Judge and the Chief Justice (as in England before 1640, judges served at the King’s pleasure).  In many jurisdictions, temporary judges are not permitted to sit as being unconstitutional.  Whether it is constitutional or not, the system of using on a regular basis, so many temporary judges (even temporary judges above the age of 75) cannot be seen to be good for judicial independence in Hong Kong.  In some ways, it can be said that all the judicial independence safeguard put in place for the regularly appointed Judges is undermined by the practice of using on a regular basis large number of temporary judges. It is a joint responsibility of the CJ, the SJ, JORC and LegCo that this long standing problem needs to be tackled.  Otherwise when our political climate changes for the worse and HK Judiciary no longer enjoys the same high confidence of the community, any judgment of such temporary Judges specially on a controversial matter will be subject to criticism, adverse comment, challenges as to lack of jurisdiction, if not worse.

51. The increasing social and political divide in Hong Kong has exposed the Judiciary often into a helpless position when it is neither properly defended by the Secretary of Justice nor by the Chief Justice nor by both leaders of the legal profession. The White Paper is one recent example. This generates low morale in the Judiciary which cannot be good either for future recruitment or for judicial independence or personal independence.  The Judiciary and Hong Kong must prepare for the future when the worse might come and Judiciary is left to defend itself but cannot or will not speak. The Judiciary Administrator is a civil servant and in more ways than not, is on the side of the Government rather than of the Judges.  As far as I can see the community puts very little credibility in that post or its occupant who is generally regarded as trying to keep her head down.  Too often the impression given to the community is that too many at the top whether in JORC, Government, legal profession, independent bodies or even some press are all too close to power or to Beijing or if not, only too ready to please Beijing and that those who are not and dare to speak out, are branded or attacked.

52. With the recent political turmoil, one aspect of our system is suffering from great strain and that is the proper role of the Secretary of Justice. When the SC is a prominent promotor of constitutional reform which is opposed by many in the community and by the Bar Association, the credibility of the SJ is increasing called into question.  But he occupies the key position in JORC, in Exco, LegCo, head of Department of Justice and traditional defender of the Judiciary. Time must come soon, when the SJ’s proper role must be re-examined specially in the near future when there will be seen to be a risk of subtle undermining of judicial independence.       

53. LegCo which can be a defender of proper administration of justice and judicial independence in recent years has seen such internal turmoil that it does not have the time or the energy to oversee as it should, that judicial independence is properly preserved and thriving.  There could be regular sitting of legislative oversight to examine the actual situation of the Judiciary and the state and reality of judicial independence.  LegCo should meet the Judges and hear from them and not through the filter of the Judiciary Administrator who is a career civil servant more on the side of the Government than of the Judges.  Perhaps some lesson can be learnt from the change in the practice of English Judges. Apparently between January 2003 and December 2013, 72 judges appeared on a total of 148 occasions before UK Parliamentary Committees.  Gee, Hazell, Malleson and O’Brien in their book “The Politics of Judicial Independence in the UK’s Changing Constitution” assert that the relationship between the judiciary and Parliament has undergone a structural change and that Select Committees “have developed into key guardians of judicial independence and the rule of law”. (derived from draft of Sir Anthony Mason KeyNote Address, July 2015 kindly supplied by the author to William Waung)

54. Finally, I would suggest that Hong Kong should set up at our University, an independent Institute of Judiciary Studies which would hold yearly or bi-yearly Conference on Judicial Independence as done in Australia.  The study and continued vigilance on Judicial Independence should not be left exclusively in the hands of the Judiciary but should be extended to the more independent and specialist hands of the university as in Australia. At such Conference, local and foreign jurists and academics should be invited to speak and to discuss. A respected legal academic should be separately appointed to be its head.  A reading of the programme for example of the July 2015 Judicial Independence in Australia Conference will readily reveal why Australia enjoys such robust judicial independence and such outstanding jurisprudence.  Sir Anthony Mason was assisted by top legal academic in writing his Key Note Speech and the 2 days 19 Papers Conference is packed with thinking of the highest order. Hong Kong and its people need to build up our confidence in our judicial independence and that confidence will only come when we are constantly vigilant in maintaining and defending our Judicial Independence.


William Waung

Dated 29th July 2015

Glorious, mighty China finally free of deadly essayist threat

Posted on  by biglychee

China’s Communist regime must have mustered all its internal-security and message-crafting resources to ensure that Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo rotted, ailed and died as discreetly and seamlessly as possible, while maximizing anguish and fear among his loved ones and sympathizers.

Yet, so petrified was the dictatorship of the dying writer and his ideas, that its micromanagement of his last few days was visibly clunky. Beijing’s soft-power geniuses seem to have bickered over the idea of bringing foreign doctors in at the last minute. Shouldn’t we just let Liu die unseen off-camera rather than attract attention? Or would an invitation to overseas medics make us look humane? (Could we even get the world to think the foreign doctors were culpable in his lack of treatment?)

Global Times portrays Liu as a victim of the West (which conned him into thinking governments should obey their own constitutions) and also falls back on the old line implying that China’s economic progress excuses/requires incarcerating and killing critics.

This argument would be more convincing if they supplemented the record of rising prosperity with the undeniable reduction in the quantity of Communist Party barbarism and blood-shedding over the same period. Thus annual per-capita GDP in the 1950s-60s was US$100 versus US$6,000 today; and the average annual number of deaths from political/ideological causes in the 1950s-60s was (say) 3 million versus (say) 3,000 today. For a paranoid psychopathic mafia increasingly obsessed solely with keeping power, we’re headed in the right direction! But of course, if the one-party state could be honest it would cease to exist and wouldn’t need better PR.

In Hong Kong, Leninist dictatorship continues to grind away. Today the High Court will rule on the disqualification of oath-mangling pro-democracy lawmakers. If Beijing wins, it succeeds in weakening the legal system and the legislature. It also further diminishes the credibility of the local government, and Beijing’s image as a capable sovereign of a pluralist society. Net result: it further strengthens the alienation and hostility of the population, especially the younger and more-educated. Which leads me to declare the weekend open with a reminder that, while this is going on, Taiwan is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the end of martial law.

Asia Society faces shoe-shiner’s dilemma

Big Lychee, Various Sectors

Followers of AsiaSociety-gate will enjoy a Forbes article looking at the bigger picture behind the story of a venerable NGO’s Hong Kong branch banning Joshua Wong.

Asia Society HK head and major donor Ronnie Chan represents Hong Kong’s inherited-wealth oligarchy, co-opted by Beijing and eager to protect its privileged parasitical role in the economy, not least by resisting political reform. Western corporates with Mainland interests play along.

The net result here is that the Asia Society faces two choices, internationally or locally. Either it openly becomes a Beijing-friendly organization, eschewing politics and economics for ‘oracle bones and Ming vases’ (to quote author Joe Studwell). Or it retains its integrity and finds other sources of funding.

Assuming it sacrifices its supposed values, at least at the Hong Kong level, it reinforces the impression that Hong Kong’s ‘elites’ have little but contempt for the broader community, thus increasing the ‘sense of futility’ (ex-Hong Kong U Professor Michael Davis). But it keeps its nice government-granted clubhouse.

This leaves the Foreign Correspondents Club as a rare remaining haven for free speech. They also, of course, enjoy a nice government-granted clubhouse.

Lurking in the background is the Chinese Communist Party. Hong Kong tycoons kowtow and Western business leaders otherwise prostitute themselves for a pat on the head from the Panda. Their reward is initially access to investment opportunities, but in the longer run, it is simply not having your wealth sequestered or plundered. Until they come for it anyway. Ultimately, everyone gets kicked in the teeth. If you are lucky, like ultra-loyalist Belt-and-Road-cheerleader Tung Chee-hwa’s family, they pay you – or as the Standard story quaintly puts it

…due to increased pressure from the mainland government, the family agreed to sell after a reasonable price was proposed.

Yet again – he who lives by the shoe-shine, dies by the shoe-shine.

People’s trust in the state not only for economic reasons – Dennis Kwok

EJ Insight » Hong Kong

President Xi Jinping has urged Hong Kong people to believe in themselves, in Hong Kong and in their country. Photo: Bloomberg

President Xi Jinping has urged Hong Kong people to believe in themselves, in Hong Kong and in their country. Photo: Bloomberg

Last Friday night, I was invited to the official welcome banquet for President Xi Jinping, who was visiting Hong Kong to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the handover.

When President Xi addressed the guests at the banquet, he urged the people of Hong Kong to embrace the “three beliefs” — belief in themselves, belief in Hong Kong, and belief in their country.

I guess the “three beliefs” stemmed from Xi’s confidence in the economic achievements of the mainland and Hong Kong.

True, China has achieved enormous and internationally acclaimed success in its economic reforms, and Hong Kong has also remained a global trade and financial hub widely recognized by the rest of the world.

However, trust between the people and the state is not necessarily built on how good or how bad the economy is, nor is economic performance the only factor that determines whether people would have faith in their government.

On the other hand, I also believe that trust between the people and the state should be mutual. Therefore, while President Xi urged Hong Kong people to embrace the “three beliefs”, I would also like to urge Beijing to embrace the “two beliefs” simultaneously.

The first thing Beijing should believe in is the fact that the vast majority of the people of Hong Kong are rational; and the second thing is that the overwhelming majority of Hong Kong citizens are still willing to support “one country, two systems”.

However, given the fact that Hong Kong and the mainland are fundamentally different from each other in terms of culture, values, ideology, as well as social and political systems, there has been a strong desire among Hongkongers to preserve the unique character of their city and their existing way of life.

Apparently, former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping was well aware of such a desire. That is why he proposed the ground-breaking idea of “one country two systems” and then concluded the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984 and registered the treaty with the United Nations to reassure the people of Hong Kong that their civil rights and their way of life would remain unchanged after 1997.

As long as Beijing continues to stick to the original intention of “one country, two systems” and strictly abides by the Basic Law, by no means the people of Hong Kong would lose their trust in the state.

Unfortunately, several recent moves by Beijing seemed to suggest otherwise, thereby giving rise to concerns among the people of Hong Kong over whether the central government under President Xi is still committed to preserving “one country, two systems”.

For example, on the same day President Xi called upon the people of Hong Kong to embrace the “three beliefs”, a spokesperson for the foreign ministry in Beijing told the media in a routine press conference that the Sino-British Joint Declaration is a historical document that no longer has any realistic meaning today, nor is it still legally binding as a treaty for both the Chinese government and the HKSAR administration.

Yet, the truth is, what the foreign ministry said could have violated Article 159 of the Basic Law, which says any amendment to the Basic Law must not contradict the established guiding principles that govern Beijing’s overall policy towards Hong Kong.

And those established guiding principles, according to the second paragraph of the preamble of the Basic Law, have been clearly laid down in the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

In other words, the Joint Declaration provides the legal basis for the entire Basic Law, and as long as the Basic Law remains in effect, so does the Sino-British Joint Declaration, not to mention the fact that it is an international treaty registered with the United Nations.

How could President Xi expect the people of Hong Kong to believe in the state when Beijing is blatantly breaching its treaty obligations?

I believe the best way to enhance Hong Kong people’s trust in the state is for Beijing to allow them a high degree of autonomy and genuine democracy on one hand, and to comply with international treaty obligations on the other.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 6

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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A good first week but what about the other 259 to come? – Stephen Vines

EJ Insight » Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s new leader Carrie Lam attends a Question and Answer session at the Legislative Council on July 5. Photo: Reuters

Hong Kong’s new leader Carrie Lam attends a Question and Answer session at the Legislative Council on July 5. Photo: Reuters

Carrie Lam has got off to a good start in her first week in office as Chief Executive, but then again all her predecessors, even including the deeply unpopular Leung Chun-ying, assumed office with favorable poll ratings.

So, one week is hardly sufficient to make a substantive assessment of the new Lam administration. However, even at this early stage, it is possible to deduce her strategic thinking, and it is a hell of a lot smarter than Leung’s way of conducting business.

Leung, too, imagined that if he could be seen giving priority to so-called livelihood issues, the public would be more willing to embrace other policies that were way more controversial. However he was in perpetual struggle mode and so could not bring himself to cooperate with people he viewed as being enemies.

Lam has started out with an important symbolic move, which was to abandon Leung’s practice of standing in front of the Legco president when addressing the chamber. This has been accompanied by a declaration of intent to re-open Civic Square outside the Legco building as a gesture towards ending the isolation of government. Obviously this gesture needs to be made real, otherwise it will prove to be worse than hollow.

Another wise, and frankly low-cost, gesture has been her assurance to draw up plans for including the Chief Executive within the scope of anti-bribery laws. This really is a no-brainer and could only be opposed by an official with real personal concerns here. Readers are invited to draw their own conclusions as to why previous administrations were so reluctant to act on this matter.

Lam is also moving fast to tackle some other issues in a more acceptable manner as seen in the way she is approaching educational reforms, with indications that she is actually prepared to listen to educationalists and incorporate their ideas into government policy. Top-down policymaking, the only form of policymaking known to her predecessors, simply did not work and she appears to have drawn the obvious conclusion.

In general it seems that, unlike Leung, who was even prepared to sacrifice progress on simple spending allocations by insisting that controversial issues were settled first, Lam has indicated that she is ready not to score political points here and can therefore be expected to make progress on the do-able before moving onto matters that are more controversial.

She has also outlined ways of stepping up interaction with lawmakers, that, hopefully, will replace the highly confrontational and entirely non-productive set-piece quarterly Q&A sessions in Legco.

In summary she seems to be pursuing a policy of getting things done, reaching out to government opponents and prioritizing the settlement of some important livelihood issues that were stalled by the previous administration.

However, before getting carried away with an excessive optimism, it needs to be stressed that Lam’s real scope for independent action is severely constrained by the highly assertive hand of the central government that no longer even pretends that the slogan ‘Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong’ has any meaning.

She can be under no illusion that she owes her ‘election’ to the efforts of the central government, through its hyperactive Liaison Office. Moreover the visit of President Xi Jinping has underlined the subservience of the HKSAR government, coupled with threats of severe consequences if certain lines are crossed.

There cannot be a scintilla of doubt that Beijing expects this administration to both enact tough anti-subversion legislation derived from Article 23 of the Basic Law, and that it wants patriotic education to be rammed down the throats of school children.

There are ways of handling both these issues that do not necessarily require full-scale confrontation but it remains to be seen whether Beijing will permit Lam to seek the path of compromise.

In this respect it is worth noting the chilling reminder of the perils of compromise recently delivered by Zhou Nan, Beijing’s point man in Hong Kong at the time of the handover. Approvingly quoting the remarks of Mao Zedong he said, “we must uphold a clear-cut stance …unity gained with compromise dies quickly”.

It remains to be seen whether Lam will be brave enough to even attempt the effort of seeking a compromise on these matters. The current evidence is that she will not and that Beijing will be pursuing a very hardline on what it sees as key ‘national’ issues.

The central government is also in no mood to compromise over democratic reform and Lam has already strongly hinted that she will not even try to make progress in this area.

So, the time bombs that litter her job have already been laid, and others will undoubtedly arise. Lam’s predecessors all left office far more unpopular than when they came in; so who’s to say that she will not follow suit?

Lam can however quickly choose to make another commitment, which will emphasize that she is not merely CY Mark II. Unlike him she can promise not to spend practically every week scuttling across the border for this, that and the other. In other words Hong Kong’s new leader can choose to actually spend most of her time in Hong Kong…it’s not a big ask.

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