Hong Kong has political prisoners, and it’s time we all admitted it.
Three years after the start of the ‘Illegal Occupy Movement’, the Hong Kong courts are finally dishing out some serious jail time.
This week could see the founding fathers of the Illegal Occupy Central movement jailed for several years each for their part in the 2014 protests.
But our joy has been bittersweet.
For all the work that we have invested in crushing the forces of democracy, what thanks have we received? Precious few.
Instead, we’ve been treated to a succession of defensive pleas and prevarications by Hong Kong’s great and good. Comrade Carrie Lam, Justice Secretary RIMsky Yuen, the Bar Association and Law Society, my dear United Front comrade Eugene Chan Kin-keung, all the way down to the humblest newspaper columnist, Hong Kong’s establishment forces have lined up to defend the ‘independent’ judiciary against claims of political shenanigans.
Don’t blame us, we just followed the law! Don’t undermine Hong Kong with your talk of politics! Methinks they protest too much.
Well I say enough, Comrades. Nobody believes this nonsense. Foreigners moaning about political interference isn’t what undermines Hong Kong’s rule of law. Judicial independence was designed to resist foreign meddling. What undermines the rule of law in Hong Kong is the Communist Party, and it’s about time we got a bit more credit for it.
It’s all in the numbers
Wong and Chow weren’t locked up simply for climbing over a fence, nor was Law jailed just for incitement. They’re in jail because the Central Government and the Liaison Office wanted them there.
Article 25 of the Basic Law states that “all Hong Kong residents shall be equal before the law”. This implies that not only should they have equal protection from the law, but they should be held equally liable for their actions. And they’re not.
Even before the Civic Square occupation, the Occupy Central practice run in July resulted in 511 arrests. None have been jailed.
When police cleared Civic Square, they arrested 70 occupiers. Every one of those people broke the law in much the same way as Wong, Law and Chow, yet none of them are in jail.
During the subsequent 79-day Illegal Occupy Movement, 1,003 radical elements were arrested and 81 convicted, but few of these convictions lead to jail. These numbers don’t include the Occupy Central organisers and the former head of the catholic church, who asked to be arrested, nor the seditious elements arrested after the occupation for group shopping or attacking police officers with their breasts.
As the main Illegal Occupy camp was closed, the police took the details of 909 people and arrested 247, including Legislators from the Democratic Party, Civic Party, Labour Party and the League of Social Democrats; students, pop-stars, social workers, and a newspaper publisher. Among the lawyers arrested were three former heads of the Bar Association.
While the police have documented hundreds, probably thousands, of these subversive elements, how many have been jailed?
Every day of the protests, United Front supporters confronted the occupiers and the journalists filming them. Our comrades used bad language, intimidation, foul liquids, excrement and physical violence, and the police gave them safe passage to leave. None of them are on trial.
China gives freedom to all its children
The national Constitution states that Chinese citizens enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration. I’m not joking, it really says that.
So we can’t jail anyone in Hong Kong for holding opinions. We can’t even jail people for expressing their opinions, though we’re working on that one (don’t go picking quarrels and provoking trouble in China or spreading rumours in Macau). If we had that power, then half the population of Hong Kong would be locked up. Millions of Hong Kong citizens have either signed petitions, marched against the government, accessed information, spread gossip, engaged in superstitions, donated money, voted for ‘pan-democratic’ politicians and openly scorned the authority of the Communist Party.
But you can jail people for acting on their opinions, or for inciting people to act on their opinions. The problem is, if you apply the law fairly, then there isn’t a prison big enough for the hundreds of thousands who took part in or supported the Illegal Occupy Movement.
Benny Tai Yiu-ting, the Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, and Dr Chan Kin-man are all charged with conspiracy to commit public nuisance, inciting others to commit public nuisance, and inciting people to incite others to commit public nuisance. Nathan Law was convicted of incitement.
Wong, Law and Chow’s convictions were based on witness statements, police, CCTV and television footage. The same evidence could be used against any of the hundreds of thousands of trouble-makers who supported the 2014 protests in Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Mongkok.
Yet few have been tried, let alone convicted. Is it for lack of evidence? Is it hell. If you were there, we know who you are. We have you on film, we have your name, your phone number, your social media confessions. We saw what you did and who you were with.
Judge Wally smells an unhealthy wind
The Court of Appeal was mobbed with reporters, all eager for Judge Wally to announced his verdict. With the world and the nation’s attention, Comrade Wally couldn’t resist basking in the moment. If he’d just stuck to the facts and jailed the troublesome trio, maybe people would have trusted his judgement. But like a luvvie at the Oscars, he just had to throw in a bit of politics.
“An unhealthy wind has been blowing in Hong Kong,” he warned. “Acts done in the name of the free exercise of rights, but which are in substance acts which undermine public order and breach the peace, will throw society into chaos,” he proclaimed, predicting anarchy, wanton acts, vicious violence, and arrogant and conceited thinking that might influence young people.
Evidently Judge Wally forgot that it was the young people who were on trial.
And the sentence. Six to eight months for climbing over a fence? Is it mere coincidence that the sentences were just long enough to get them banned from elections for five years?
That whole separation myth
The Umbrella revolutionaries are being jailed not for their opinions, nor for their actions, but for their influence. That is the way the law works in the People’s Republic, and that is how it works in Hong Kong.
To quote another bunch of troublemaking intellectuals, the Progressive Lawyers Group; “They are of course political prisoners. This not a case where people are accused of stealing fish. The defendants’ actions were political, and so is the government’s prosecution.”
I’ve said this before, but all power in Hong Kong, including judicial power, emanates from Zhongnanhai, and we will apply it as arbitrarily as we like.
To quote my dear Comrade Alex Lo, “In Hong Kong, separation of powers is an illusion. With smoke and mirrors, you can interpret the provisions in the Basic Law any which way; in the end, law is politics by other means”.
The judiciary doesn’t just politicise itself, it takes a lot of hard work. Though Judge Wally didn’t mention it, the spur for most of the 2014 protests was the inspiring and visionary White Paper issued by the State Council in June of that year. The White Paper made it clear that Judges are political administrators and that “In a word, loving the country is the basic political requirement for Hong Kong’s administrators.”
In Hong Kong, there is no separation of powers. There is no judicial independence.
No change for 50 years?
Some of my Comrades at the Liaison Office think I’ve got an easy job. All I do is write the odd political pamphlet, take old folks and youth groups for lunch and accompany the boss to official functions. But there’s more to it than that. I’m not paid just to wave the red flag and drink toasts to Comrade Xi. Like any citizen, I’ve got annual objectives to meet.
In 2047, One Country Two Systems expires. By that point, Hong Kong needs to resemble the Motherland so closely that nobody will notice the change. What we don’t need is a whole pile of legal complications and worried citizens complaining that their rights are suddenly being taken away.
I’ll have long retired by then, but in the meantime, it is my job to help to resist hostile foreign forces, crush subversive elements and eliminate the insidious influences of the imperialists.
It’s a tough and thankless job, but someone’s got to do it.
If we can get Hong Kong citizens as cowed down and obeisant as the Macanese, we can finally complete Hong Kong’s full reunification with the Motherland. Our joyful compatriots will pull down the fences at Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau and together, we will ride that high-speed through-train to national unity.
You can thank me then, Comrades.