HK officials suddenly fear media spotlight

The Hong Kong government is going into Maximum Righteous Hypersensitive Whiny Defensive Mode over foreign media suggestions that the city now has political prisoners.

The official line is that the appeals for tougher sentencing of Joshua Wong and other young protesters were in line with rule of law and due process, so End of Story. The definitive version is Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen’s ‘Factual Account’ published everywhere last week. It describes the step-by-step mechanics that led to the young radicals’ imprisonment and baldly states that the decision-making involved was not political.

Meanwhile, the legal profession provides a useful diversion by insisting that it is unfair and indeed dangerous to suggest that the Court of Appeal judges bowed to political pressure. The lawyers quote from an earlier statement defending judges who were attacked by pro-Beijing forces.

But neither of these lines of argument addresses the big picture, which is what local and overseas critics are looking at. In the last few years, the Hong Kong authorities have become visibly less tolerant of particular types of political opposition. It used to be OK for lawmakers to add slogans to their oaths of office, now it isn’t. It used to be that no-one was barred from the ballot for their beliefs, now they can be. It used to be that the cops and prosecutors broadly protected the right to protest; now they do so far more narrowly.

This is a highly selective shift. The government has not cracked down on lawlessness in general – punishment for triads, illegal immigrants, tax-dodging or traffic offences have stayed the same. It is targeted at a particular strand of political opposition and activists. And there’s tons more of this to come. The more the government bleats that this is all in accordance with due process, the more it highlights this shift to ‘rule by law’ persecution and suppression of dissent.

Yet bleat they will, out of frustration as much as anything else. Unlike her patriotic predecessor CY Leung, Chief Executive Carrie Lam takes no pleasure in the prospect of Hong Kong becoming part of a Leninist dictatorship. She and (most of) her fellow bureaucrat-officials bask in the right sort of Western media attention, like when a think-tank pronounces Hong Kong the World’s Freest Economy. But they fall to pieces when they are caught helping to fulfill, as they must, the Chinese Communist Party’s paranoid and malevolent obsession with crushing hostile forces. They don’t even want to admit it to themselves – let alone explain it to the New York Times.

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15 Responses to HK officials suddenly fear media spotlight

  1. Enid Fenby says:

    I know it’s the start of the week. but you must not necessarily imitate the SCMP habit of Monday =No News Day.

    Leave a blank and let us ponder. And extend the hiatus gradually…

  2. Enid Fenby says:

    I know it’s the start of the week. but you must not necessarily imitate the SCMP habit of Monday = No News Day.

    Leave a blank and let us ponder. And extend the hiatus gradually…

  3. Stephen says:

    Even if we are to accept (and I don’t) that the CCP was not behind this whole strategy, then does Rimsky Yuen (a political appointee) accept that he displays the political naivety of a child ? The same goes for his boss, Carrie Lam. What did they think the reaction was going to be ? So either Carrie Lam is insincere, incompetent or just a puppet?

  4. pie-chucker says:

    From Rimsky’s statement:

    *The defendants {Josh and his 2 chums} were prosecuted for offenses involving unlawful assembly….*

    That is, they climbed over a fence in Civic Square in Sept 2014, one that wasn’t there the previous June. Then Rimsky goes on to say this:

    *…they were convicted and sentenced because they had overstepped the line allowed by the law and that they had committed a serious unlawful act.*

    Fence climbing into public space; now a ‘serious unlawful act’?

    Sentence in this case may not be (as Rimsky repeats time and time again) due in anyway to political considerations. Merely legal process.

    But banging intelligent, non-violent youngsters in the slammer is surely somewhat at odds with Carrie’s avowed wish to make ‘genuine efforts to build a harmonious society’.

    It’s doublethink. As first alluded to (in fiction) in 1949.

  5. Old Newcomer says:

    I like the way the Standard carefully labels Rimsky’s “Factual Account” as “Opinion”. As to his argument that “political considerations do not come into play” in determining whether a sentence is adequate, this is of course nonsense. The government considered the sentences inadequate to deter further such protests. Such deterrence is a political objective.

    Incidentally, what do lawyers have against breaking up text into paragraphs?

  6. Tao says:

    Wally Yeung’s opinion explicitly cites, as justification for the harsh sentences, considerations that are transparently political.

  7. Gatts says:

    What is always being omitted in these statements is not the fact that they are sentenced, but that they were re-sentenced for offences already judged and done sentence for. Therefore the decision to re-sentence their cases was political. How many other cases has the HK government push to resentence in the past 20 years? The answer to that question will always point to political considerations due to pressure from the cold north. More articles should focus on that.

  8. dopey says:

    Am I right in thinking that Jake’s Sunday column (something along the lines of China’s Ponzi economy) isn’t available in the online edition of the SCMP? Has he done a Shirley?

  9. dopey says:

    No, I’m wrong was able to click through…

  10. dragonfly says:

    How can the HK Gov’t expect to be taken seriously over the supposed ‘factual errors’ in the media reportage and commentary, when it can’t even get Joshua Wong’s name right in its memo to consular officials?

  11. Joe Blow says:

    HK’s government, its civil service, the police, the property cartel , the pro-China legislators, the Heung Yee Kuk gangsters and the establishment are all selling HK out. And what are the HK people and their famous “Lion Rock spirit” doing about it ?

  12. Reader says:

    @dopey – it does seem that SCMP-on-the-internets buries articles more or less deeply in its cyber-labyrinth, depending on their sensitivity to the North.
    (and of course, the SCMP search engine is unfit for purpose; hail Google’s site:scmp.com function)

  13. Chinese Netizen says:

    @dopey: However, you may need a VPN in HK in the near future…

  14. HK Phooey says:

    Two typhoons in a week, trees uprooted, umbrella wars on the street of HK. I blame China.

    I see the shadowy hand of the CCP is behind all this adverse weather. The One country, Two (weather) systems agreement is now an international joke. I am now awaiting an interpretation of the typhoon classification code from the CCP to claim that Sunday’s weather was clear and sunny with occasional gusts of wind.

  15. LRE says:

    Well Rimjob’s account is about par for the course if you’re halfway through a transition to rule by law. Technically he did everything legally, even if it entirely ignores the spirit of the law.

    But his “factual account” fails to point out that it was an unelected political entity with a huge conflict of interest that appealed the sentencing of three of its most vocal opponents twice. It also doesn’t really highlight that the same unelected political entity pays and appoints the judges who heard the appeal. If any other plaintiff had this sort of sway over the judges involved in a trial, the judges would be duty-bound to disavow themselves. It’s the central problem of having a rule-of-law system with a rule-by-law government with absolutely no popular mandate and no accountability.

    The even bigger elephant in the room is that Hong Kong is now run by the CPC, who — as a good old-fashioned paranoid communist dictatorship — are accustomed to rule by law, and view rule of law as anathema to their ideals. They are the people who appointed Rimjob, and Rimjob knows where he has to rim for advancement and job security. So too do the judges who are paid and appointed by the government (save perhaps the permanent CFA judges who aren’t chasing a promotion — although nowadays if they aren’t on-message with the CPC they probably wouldn’t have the job).

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