In this essay, the comments of Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen and other high profile commentators are given as examples of a more general attitude within the establishment to be dismissive of criticism and negativity, rather than to address relevant points. Evan suggests a more patient, conciliatory and respectful approach would do more to heal divisions than to constantly play to the fringe.
「我不怪你， Evan 。別忘記，你病了。」
在《南華早報》備受重視的專欄作家盧綱 (Alex Lo) ，回應巴里·韋斯 (Bari Weiss) 在《紐約時報》發表的文章《諾貝爾和平獎應該頒給香港的青年政治犯》，說：
由展開檢控至上訴法庭處理刑罰覆核，每個階段均是嚴格依據法律進行。 3 名被告被定罪和判刑，完全是因他們的違法行為，而非他們的政治主張。作以上解述後，我誠希本地及國際社會繼續尊重香港的獨立司法機構，避免提出絕無基礎的指控。
葉劉淑儀對此案的評論，是我看過比較好的一篇：《把香港學生領袖送進監牢，結束了林鄭月娥與反對派的蜜月期》。撇開那些我無法苟同的政治傾向和結論，至少葉劉淑儀有撰文探討這問題。她勾勒出袁國強作這一決定的政治背景：親北京校長蔡若蓮獲委任為教育局副局長；高鐵計劃在西九總站實行「一地兩檢」；以及現時對佔中以來參與過各種抗議示威的其他幾名活躍分子進行刑事訴訟，其中包括兩名泛民立法會議員。把她的話翻成中文：「關於罪與罰的辯論，只不過是 2014 年以來撕裂社會的許多衝突其中一面，使本港分裂為建制派（藍色）和反對派（黃色）兩個陣營。 」
Respect Criticism: What the Dismissive Tone of the Secretary for Justice’s Supposed Clarification Says About Hong Kong
Recently, having returned to writing after a two year hiatus, I began to receive hate mail. I agreed to give an interview in which I spoke, in English, of my decision to leave Hong Kong. It was a highly emotional interview, as Hong Kong is the only home I have known and the decision has been the most difficult of my life.
What I received was a flurry of racial and anti-Anglophone abuse, although the interview was for an English language broadcaster. My part-Chinese ancestry and my roots in Hong Kong count for nothing. I am part of a “colonial legacy” that should never have been allowed to take root; my “existence represents national humiliation”; and I cannot and do not belong on Chinese soil. Thus my decision was meaningless, and my heartache and pain of leaving my home irrelevant.
But what hurt far more than the comments themselves is knowing that much of it represents state sponsored views. Almost anyone writing on China or on areas in which the Beijing has interests will be bombarded with similar abuse from “wu mao” (50 cent) – an army hundreds of thousands if not millions strong paid by our national government half a yuan for each such posting. What would in many countries, and by the values of the Hong Kong with which I identify, constitute hate crime is now sponsored by my own state. It is yet another example of a change so many people in Hong Kong have experienced which does not appear in any official record; a sense of powerlessness to react as the state no longer serves as our protector but is the source of our oppression.
Feeling hurt I turned to a close relation. I messaged her that I was pained by the racists and anti-anglophone nature of the comments. I expected to receive a call. Even if nothing could be done, a supportive line would help emotionally – a confirmation of my moral sensibility. The reply came:
“I am not interested in politics.”
This, I must confess, upset me more. It was not politics. I messaged again explaining that condemning such hateful abuse was not a political but a moral stance. My change in tone warranted this reply:
“I forgive you Evan. Remember, you are sick.”
The reply demonstrates an attitude that has sadly become symptomatic in the way the establishment addresses any form of criticism or negativity. Firstly, it is politicised whether or not the criticism is raised within political circles; moral, legal and arguments on principle are now political; and one is immediately labeled as “anti-establishment” and “unpatriotic”. Criticism is not considered, but similarly dismissed. The implications, as I received, is that the problem is with me.
This was Alex Lo, the columnist given most prominence by the South China Morning Post, writing in response to an article “A Nobel Prize for Hong Kong’s Democrats” by Bari Weiss published in the New York Times:
I used to read The New York Times for news and analysis. Now I can read it for satire, too. It’s even better than The Onion website: All the jokes that are fit to print.
Then there is Michael Chugani, in the same paper:
Kangaroo courts have arrived in Hong Kong. Our once fearlessly independent judges now huddle in secret with top government officials to brainstorm trumped-up charges against our young Davids of democracy who battle the Goliath that is communist China.
Judges churn out prisoners of conscience, making them heroes worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize. Fiction? No. Fact, as told by The New York Times.
I agree the suggestion to award Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow the Nobel Peace Prize is ridiculous. But it is meant to be. What both Chugani and Lo fails to read is that Weiss’ suggestion is clearly written with a degree of tongue in cheek, though it nevertheless makes a point.
What baffles me is if these lawyers and legal academics in the opposition camp believe we now have corrupt judges who jail people solely for their political beliefs, why remain in the profession?
Without wanting to take sides, I do not see why the government’s decision to reopen a case for which Wong, Law and Chow had already been tried and served their sentences should not be discussed, especially given that there are so many related points of consideration.
Firstly as has repeatedly been made clear both by international as well as local criticism, the public order ordinance under which the trio were and will again be tried has been criticised by the United Nations Human Rights Committee as possibly “facilitat[ing] excessive restrictions” on basic human rights. Note then that the criticism is that it could be abused in a way that would be illegal under international law, and that in demanding a retrial there is a sense that this may be the case.
There is also the matter of the fundamental legal principle double jeopardy, that one cannot be tried and sentence twice for the same offence. In reopening the case the government has been warned that it may be in violation of Hong Kong’s international legal commitments under the article 14(7) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Whilst it is true the Court of Appeal ruled the re-opening of the case would not constitute double jeopardy, the reasoning given is that the government application was made whilst the case was still open. It is thus a ruling based on procedure, and not principle nor effect – the trio will still be tried twice, sentenced twice and will be forced to serve out two sentence for the same crime. What concerns me is that the reasoning behind the Court of Appeal decision is notably absent in commentary around the debate.
There is also the question as to why the Secretary for Justice, Rimsky Yuen, reportedly overruled his legal advice to reopen the case. In an attempt to supposed clarify the situation and quash criticism, Yuen wrote a widely published article entitled “CA decision concerning student activists: A Factual Account“. In it he focused on the “basic facts of the case or our legal system, it is important that there should be an explanation of the different stages of the legal and judicial process.”
However there is little dispute that legal process was followed. Yuen notedly fails to address any of the more fundamental points of law raised by critics. This is again reconfirmed in Yuen end summary:
From the commencement of the prosecution up to the review of sentence by the Court of Appeal, the defendants were dealt with strictly in accordance with the law. The defendants were convicted and sentenced for their unlawful conduct, not for their political ideas. With these explanations, I hope the public and the international community will continue to respect our independent judiciary and refrain from making baseless attacks.
The question of politics and judicial independence has nothing to do with Wong, Law and Chow’s political ideals, but in his own decision and that of the government to reopen the case has no doubt with the intention that the trio be given a prison sentence. A prison sentence will bar the three from standing for the Legislative Council for at least 5 years following their release, during which time the terms of qualification may change.
There is also the sting, as I felt when was told to remember that I am sick, in Yuen’s last line. We are reminded to “respect our independent judiciary.” All criticisms are considered to “baseless attacks.” This despite criticism has come not only from a local and international public, but from leading and well respected lawyers, and political figures. Yuen implies that to respect an institution such as the rule of law is not to question, not to view it critically nor to call it to account.
One of the better commentaries I have read on the case was by Regina Ip, Jailing of Hong Kong student leaders marks the end of Carrie Lam’s honeymoon with the opposition. Forgetting her political leanings and conclusion, which I do not share, she at least writes about the issue. She outlines the political context in which Yuen made this decision: the appointment of Christine Choi, a pro-Beijing headmistress, as undersecretary for education; the unveiling of the “co-location” plan at the West Kowloon terminus of the high-speed rail link; and the ongoing criminal proceedings against several other activists, who had taken part in various protests since the onset of Occupy Central, including two legislators from the pan-democratic camp. In her words, “the debate about crime and punishment is only one dimension of the many conflicts which have torn asunder our society since 2014, dividing it into the establishment (“blue”) and the anti-establishment (“yellow”) camps.”
In conclusion, Ip writes: “the conflicts in our society – ideological, political and cultural – are too deep-rooted for the differences to be resolved purely by sound administrative measures or support from Beijing. [Chief Executive Carrie] Lam will have to work even harder. Above all, she must establish her moral high ground and speak for the rational, silent majority in upcoming debates.”
She is right only in her diagnosis. To maintain the moral high ground the Hong Kong SAR government needs to do more to represent and defend local people and their values, including our unique cultural and linguistic identity. The SAR government should, as it was devised, be able to protect from politics our institutions, including and critically Hong Kong’s inherited academic and judicial independence. The rational, silent majority deserves to be able to express their opinions freely without being labeled unpatriotic and receiving hate mails. Their criticism should be listened to and addressed, either in action or with polite and reasoned answers. The poisonous politics of recent years may only be tempered with patience, understanding and moderation. What Hong Kong most likely needs, and I write this with confidence that this is by far the majority view, is not more but less “support” from Beijing.
My relation may know I have recently overcome a deep depression. She may know I have been diagnosed with unipolar disorder. But this does not affect my ability to think and feel. It is not a reason to be dismissive. I am not sick. It is the lowest form or patronage: to play doctor to the sick patient.
Hong Kong and the international community deserve more than being told that our concerns are “baseless,” and worthy of ridicule in satire. We do not need to be told we are sick. We do not need to be told of our divisions, and constantly reminded of the antics of those who live on the fringe. In their case for the sensational the likes of Alex Lo and Michael Chugani have swung the debate to the dismissive extreme, which serves only to provoke and highlight social and political divisions. Hong Kong deserves another more conciliatory, mature and intellectually honest approach. This more aggressive, uncompromising, with us or against us approach is not the way past Hong Kong governments worked. That it chooses to take this approach today, and to appoint people who operate in such an environment, changing the ideal and ethos of both the civil service as well as society at large, is not a welcome development.
【譯文由 Ben 提供】Original article posted on The Standnews.