A heated controversy has been stirred up in Hong Kong by a special Press Release of the Xinhua Agency, CCP’s official mouthpiece. The Press Release was an explanation to the proposed national security bill for Hong Kong published on the request of the CCP’s Legislative Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress. Among other things, it said that the Chief Executive “should” be responsible for designating judges to handle cases related to national security.
Former Chief Justice of Hong Kong, Honorable Andrew Li, wrote an article to a local newspaper to express concern over that particular provision. He questioned that if it was a form of interference in judiciary independence from the executive branch. He further expressed “serious concern” over the CCP’s retention of power of adjudication in so-called extreme cases of national security since the defendant would not be protected by the local judicial process. The Hong Kong Bar Association has also released a declaration that echoes Li’s worries.
Both the Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, and the Secretary for Justice, Teresa Cheng, defended the CCP’s position. They told the media that, according to their interpretation, the Press Release meant that the Chief Executive would prepare a shortlist of judges for the Judiciary to assign, not to specify who to preside a particular case. The official website of the Hong Kong government reported Lam’s speech which maintained that the Press Release was “helpful in dissolving apprehensions” over the CCP’s congressional decision to legislate on national security. Note that this report does not have an English version, unlike other entries are which always bilingual.
The whole matter is a farcical joke. Why does the “explanation” take the form of a news agency’s press release? Does it serve as an official governmental document? On one hand, Lam emphasized that the Chief Executive was not only the head of the executive branch but also of the city when she dismissed the allegation of executive interference into the judiciary. Where is the separation of powers? On the other hand, she and Cheng could only respond to questions over the matter with “their own understanding”. Why are they so pompous but evasive? Does it mean that not even they (are allowed to) know what is going to be enacted? If yes, is there any autonomy at all?