Hong Kong not so special any more

At ECIS I talked to a couple of my old Hong Kong friends about the state of affairs over there, and they’re as worried as they can afford to be: The ones who are still there express optimism, while the ones who have left see doom and gloom for the “special administrative region” which is becoming less and less “special” every year. The Big White Guy comments about the boot of repression:

I generally don’t comment much about politics in Hong Kong, but the furor over the pending rubber-stamp of Article 23 — the proposed anti-subversion law — is heating up.

The problem with Article 23 is that it is vague. It threatens the freedom of not only Hong Kong residents, but Hong Kong-born citizens abroad. The wording of the article is as follows:

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People’s Government, or theft of state secrets, to prohibit foreign political organizations or bodies from conducting political activities in the Region, and to prohibit political organizations or bodies of the Region from establishing ties with foreign political organizations or bodies.

But what is considered an act of sedition or subversion? If I make a snide comment against the government on my web site, does that mean I might just earn the minimum penalty of seven years in jail? Probably not, but when the law is vague, it allows the government to operate on the basis of whims.

And that’s dangerous.

[The big white guy, June 2003]

A Canadian student of Chinese law (studying in Hong Kong) once told me that China has the best constitution of any country in the world. According to the constitution, everybody is entitled to freedom to do and say anything, everybody has a right to food and shelter, education, etc. Only problem is, there are no institutional links between the constitution and the rest of society. The laws and the legal system are not tied to the words or the spirit of the constitution, and there are no systems in place to forge such ties. In other words, the Chinese society of today is less bound by its constitution that the western world is to the ten commandments of the Judean/Christian Bible.

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