HENRY LITTON. Joshua Wong article in Australian 2 Sep

Joshua Wong, in his article in The Australian of 2 September, made a valid point when he asked rhetorically “who were the ones who did not give young people a stake in society ?”

The fact is that, over the past two decades, since China’s resumption of sovereignty over Hong Kong in 1997, the laissez-faire policy of the former colonial government has been carried to extremes. The rich have prospered whilst the bulk of the people suffered. Basic social needs have been neglected, essential service-providers such as nurses and teachers under-valued and ill-paid, hospitals under-staffed. Real estate developers have been favoured above all others, and the young find it difficult to rent even the most sub-standard accommodation. The gap between the rich and the poor is ever-widening, and the young see little prospect of reaching their full potential. For them, the future looks bleak. Much of the fault lies with the successive administrations since the Handover.

But are the means employed by Joshua Wong and his confederates the solution to Hong Kong’s problems ?

He threatens “many more months of tears and suffering”. To promote freedom, democracy and liberal values in Hong Kong, his confederates have immobilized transport hubs – including the international airport – broken into and desecrated the Legislative Council chamber, vandalized the façade of the Mainland liaison office, trashed mass transit railway stations, and erected street barriers. They come out in hard-hats, goggles and gas-masks, wielding batons, shields and lasers, attacking the police with fire-bombs, bricks and batons, violently resisting arrest. They have singled out the families of police officers for vilification.

They claim the protection of the law but with premeditation violently break the law. They have, to assert their right to freedom, trampled on the freedoms of millions of others – both local and from overseas – and brought untold damage to the Hong Kong community.

Wong says that “the only way for stability to return is for Beijing to grant us free and fair election in the city – one of the five demands made by the anti-extradition movement”.

Can he be totally ignorant of the arrangement made by China and Britain over the future of Hong Kong in 1984, as now concretised in the Basic Law, under the policy of “One Country Two Systems”?  Joshua Wong and his confederates demand that the Chief Executive should resign and a new Chief Executive be elected by popular vote. Is he not aware that enshrined in the Basic Law is the provision that there should be a “broadly representative nominating committee” which selects the eventual person for appointment? Has he not read the decision of the Standing Committee of the National Peoples’ Congress of 31 August 2014 which envisaged the committee nominating “two or three” candidates for appointment, those candidates then being put to the vote “through universal suffrage”? Is he not aware that the “democrats” themselves have rejected that model in 2016 ?

The National Peoples’ Congress (NPC) alone has power to amend the Basic Law: Article 159.

What Wong and his confederates demand is a constitutional impossibility, unless the NPC amends the Basic Law. Do they really believe that by bringing “tears and suffering” to the Hong Kong community, the NPC would bend to their demands and amend the Basic Law?

There is one overwhelming reality that Wong ignores. The common law system underpinning Hong Kong’s “core values” expires in 27 years’ time. The One Country Two Systems formula was designed to last for 50 years and no more. Hence Article 5 of the Basic Law. There is no mechanism for the system to continue beyond 30 June 2047, except for Article 159 which, as mentioned earlier, vests the power of amendment in the NPC.

All the calls for freedom and liberal democratic values have no meaning if the common law crumbles.

As things stand today, Hong Kong as a special administrative region has by far the greatest freedoms throughout China. If Wong and his confederates truly value their professed aims, their focus would be on demonstrating to Beijing and the rest of the world that the One Country Two Systems formula works, and to promote an atmosphere in which Beijing feels comfortable with the system – and when the time comes, to extend the Basic Law for another 50 years, even 100 years. Then liberal democratic values might endure.

Crunch time is not 27 years away. It is just round the corner. For Hong Kong to continue as one of the world’s greatest financial centres, planning for the future must look 20–30 years ahead. So the hard questions will soon be put: is the common law system to continue beyond June 2047 ? Is it fit for purpose ? This is where the focus should lie, for Joshua Wong and his young confederates. Their “fight” should be for the long continuation of the “One Country Two Systems” policy.  Up to now, they have demonstrated for all the world to see that the policy is very fragile, and if the present turmoil continues, it would surely fracture beyond any hope of recall.

Henry Litton is a former judge of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal.


Ramesh Thakur is a professor emeritus at the Crawford School of Public Policy, the Australian National University.

This entry was posted in Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to HENRY LITTON. Joshua Wong article in Australian 2 Sep

  1. Charles Lowe says:

    Yes. I can understand his argument from the perspective of a Judge.

    I urge a recognition of the reality of poliotical rpcesses and factors.

    Firstly, were there to be a nominatable “leader” of the Hong Kong democracy movement (see point two), his/her strategy would be (as it does seem to be) to undermine the ;legitimacy’ of the 1997 agreement.

    Secondly, there is no nominatable “leader’ of the ‘democracy movement’. Nor should there be. If there were, China would have been gifted such an easy focus for its discontent. With consequent personal abuse.

    Why the author chooses to name Joshua Wong as “Leader” is unknown. Certainly the author offers absolutely no justification. I disbelieve.

  2. Lincolnite says:

    Hong Kong is not a Singapore in waiting it remains an inextricable part of China where the leasing agreement has terminated and the reversion terms to the freeholder have been negotiated and agreed between the two principles. Henry Litton very clearly sets out the very real grievances of the general population but they are a function of the Legislative Council not Beijing, any sensible authority would take note to address these justified grievances soonest.

  3. Malcolm Crout says:

    Wow! This man has a real hard on for Wong.

    Perhaps his point of view has more to do with his prior elevated position within the Hong Kong society, rather than the on ground perspectives of Wong and the anti extradition movement. If all of the points that he promotes are valid, then why are a million plus Hong Kong citizens flooding the streets in protest? They’re not all young students. In fact, some of them are old enough to be the parents of young students.

    To blame a single person for this movement seems rather lame to me. The fact is that since the handover, the elites have captured the economy of Hong Kong to the disadvantage of all other classes. Income inequality has soared, while elites have done very nicely. Rents were always high but now they are impossibly so as wealthy mainlanders displace the genuine citizens of Hong Kong. The so called committee that appointed Lam was never elected in the democratic sense, but I believe she won her position by being “connected to both the HK elites and the CCP.

    Any popular progressive movement faces this style of criticism, but the tone and style seems to be very Sino orientated. Just saying ……………….

    Anyway, I doubt this one person’s view will have any impact on sympathy from the West.

  4. R. N. England says:

    Given the speed of social decline in Britain and the US, Hong Kong might soon be glad to rid itself of their individualist tradition, and embrace socialism with Chinese characteristics. Hong Kong’s and perhaps also Shenzhen’s main problem seems to be a plague of property developers and not enough socialism.

Comments are closed.