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Unformatted text preview: Spring 2004 L11 Lecture 11
Governance of the Post-1997 SAR (I)
Autonomy, Rule of Law and Freedom (A) Governing Philosophy after 1997
General Strategy Hong Kong’s well-being is closely connected with the well-being of China (中國好, 香
港好; 香港好,中國好). China must prosper for Hong Kong to prosper, and Hong
Kong must prosper to help the development of China. Hong Kong must be prosperous
to maintain its special status in China's grand strategy. Stability and prosperity as the paramount concern. Stability and prosperity is valued
over other values such as freedom, human rights and democracy. The original idea was that economic prosperity would bring legitimacy and popularity
to the government, even without democratic election of the government. Political Strategy Politically the government tried to do as little as possible. Political reform was kept to
minimal. The adoption of POAS in 2002 was only a minimal change. The political system designed in the Basic Law, constraints to the Legco, and the
fragmentation of the Legco all made sure the executive branch will be dominant in the
decision-making process after 1997. Wide appointment powers enabled the CE to
appoint political conservatives to major power positions in various commissions and
marginalize the democrats. The system also ensured that the Central govt has enough
means to re-assert control over Hong Kong should there be major challenges to
authority of the SAR government (e.g. riots). There are some political bottom lines (e.g., Taiwan independence, Falun Gong) that
China concerns, which the SAR govt will not allow HK people to touch. HK’s
freedom on these issues would be restrained in certain respects. The Local cannot
1 Spring 2004 L11 challenge the Central—Hong Kong is not going to be a base for subversion, for Falun
Gong, for pro-Taiwan-independence people, etc..
Economic Economically Hong Kong has to remain a thriving capitalist economy. In the minds of
the SAR govt, this means protecting business interests. The tax must remain low,
Hong Kong must be stable, and Hong Kong should not have a lot of welfare, etc.. To maintain competitiveness and attractiveness to foreign investors, Hong Kong has to
maintain an outlook of freedom and rule of law to attract foreign investors. The idea was to "Singaporeanize" HK: emphasize on stability, economic development
and not democracy, maintain an open economy, politically conservative, limited
opposition movement, etc.. (B) High Autonomy: How High?
Central Government Exercising Restraint The Central govt largely refrained from intervening into HK affairs, especially social
and economic policies. The Central Govt. vested much trust in Tung and the SAR
government to handle the affairs in Hong Kong, at least before July 2003. Compared to before 1997, the New China News Agency or the Liaison Office (中聯辦)
seldom commented on local policies and affairs. The People's Liberation Army stayed
in their barracks. There was no economic interference. The Central government did not even help during
the Asian financial crisis.
The Limits on Autonomy The NPC's (first) interpretation on the Basic Law in 1999: is the Court of Final Appeal
final? To what extent can HK have judicial independence? The adaptation of the laws (法律適應化) in 1998 exempted mainland official
2 Spring 2004 L11 institutions from the jurisdiction of Hong Kong’s law. It casts doubt that if the
mainland authorities in Hong Kong are "above the law". It may also have violated
Article 22 of the Basic Law.
On political sensitive issues that concern the central govt, there was much pressure on
freedom of speech in Hong Kong. The SAR govt is usually in a difficult and
embarrassing position and will try not to offend the central government.
Examples -- Removal of Taiwan’s flag
Falun Gong’s activities in Hong Kong In terms of legal/security/other dealings with the mainland authorities, the general
picture was that the SAR government would try not to confront mainland authorities to
defend Hong Kong people’s interests:
E.g.-- The Cheung Tsz-keung (張子強) case
Cases of Hong Kong people detained or having trouble in mainland China
The Su Ziyi (蘇志一) case With the HK economy declining, HK’s economic dependence on China increases after
1997 (rather than the other way around). It weakened the bargaining power of HK with
the Central Govt. It also means that the business and professional sectors in HK are
more dependent on mainland opportunities, which increases the Central Govt’s
influence on HK society. (C) Freedom and Rule of Law On the whole, freedom of press, freedom of speech and other freedoms, and the rule of
law did not impair drastically after 1997. But there were events that aroused concern
from human right activists and the legal profession concerning freedom and rule of law
Rule of Law The Sally Aw (胡仙) case caused a lot of concern about the rule of law in HK. The
govt. claimed that she was not prosecuted because of “public interest”—that because
she was head of a large company. Similar events included the non-persecution of a
senior housing official and the son of a high-court judge. This created grave concerns
among the legal sector and gave the public the perception that some rich and influential
people are “above the law” in Hong Kong. (How about Nicholas Tse(謝霆鋒)?)
3 Spring 2004 L11 The reinterpretation of the Basic Law by the NPC cast doubts on the final adjudication
power and judicial independence of Hong Kong. It showed that the SAR govt can, by
asking the NPCSC to exercise the power of reinterpretation, overrule the decision of the
Court of Final Appeal because of political or policy reasons.
Freedom of Speech Concerning media freedom, there are trends on self-censorship (自我審查) of the
media, shying away from criticisms of the Central Govt., or adopting a more progovernment position. Dependence on business revenues from mainland China and
active co-optation by the Chinese govt. is a major reason. Occasional intimidation of the media (e.g., the RTHK) by the mainland officials, proPRC press, and pro-PRC politicians like Xu Simin (徐四民). The transfer of RTHK
chief Cheung Man-yi (張敏儀) to Japan led to a lot of doubts about the govt.
exercising control on RTHK. The criticism of Cable TV’s interview with Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) of Taiwan in 2000
showed that freedom of expression may not contravene China’s conception of “one
country.” Civil Liberties The United Nations Human Rights Committee saw the reinterpretation of the Basic
Law on the right of abode issue as the most serious case of violation of human rights in
Hong Kong after the handover, as it denied the right of abode of many Hong Kong
citizens by political means. The exercise of police power on public demonstrations and protests was criticized.
Sometimes a lot of police were deployed to control/surround demonstrations and/or use
unnecessary violence. It sometimes gave public the perception that the police
selectively used their power against protesters. Some arrests and prosecutions towards
protesters and the Falun Gong created pressure on public protests and non-endorsed
activities. E.g., the arrest of Leung Kwok-hung and others for “illegal assembly”, and
Falun Gong practitioners for “public obstruction” in 2002. In the Robert Chung incident (鍾庭耀事件), it was alleged that the CE sent his aide
4 Spring 2004 L11 Andrew Lo (路祥安) to put pressure on HKU’s president to stop polling Tung’s
popularity. It created the impression that Tung used his power to infringe academic
freedom. The Anti-Terrorism Ordinance (反恐條例) in 2002 outlaws “terrorist acts” that are
aimed to “influence the government” or “for the purpose of advancing a political,
religious or ideological cause.” It can affect a lot of people who may have nothing to
do with terrorists.
(Content of bill: http://www.legco.gov.hk/yr01-02/chinese/bills/c012-c.pdf) 5 ...
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