No surprises here: scandalous speeches just state the obvious

No surprises here: scandalous speeches just state the obvious


Zhang Xiaoming made news when he said that Leung Chun-ying's position "transcends" legal power.

Zhang Xiaoming , Beijing's liaison office director, gave a speech that sparked controversy, but he wasn't wrong: separation of powers cannot be applied to Hong Kong "in its entirety".

I am not a mindless pro-government supporter. I came to this view after reading the entire Chinese transcript of Zhang's speech. There were plenty of articles that vehemently argued that "Hong Kong is renowned for its judicial independence". In fact, Zhang never denied the independence of Hong Kong's judiciary, and he actually mentioned the above phrase at least three times.

But there wasn't much discussion about the broader context of Zhang's speech. He merely restated the truth about Hong Kong's distinct political system.

I agree that with the upcoming anniversary of the Umbrella Movement and worries about Hong Kong's "reduced autonomy", a top mainland official should be more politically sensitive and choose their words more wisely. Yet this farce once again reflected an increasingly apprehensive population and media provocation.

How could I say that Zhang was "not wrong" when he claimed that separation of powers is only a "reference point" for a city under common law jurisdiction? The sad fact is that our Basic Law has its limitations. The National People's Congress (NPC) can interpret Hong Kong's mini-constitution and reject rulings made by local courts.

Zhang, as Beijing's representative, was obliged to stress the authority of the central government and its grip on Hong Kong.

However, we did see our discussions on universal suffrage being limited by restrictions not included in the Basic Law, but imposed by government officials. The intervention was even more bizarre when one considers that the instructions on electoral procedures were issued by the NPC, not Hong Kong's chief executive.

Hong Kong undoubtedly enjoys a high degree of judicial independence, meaning the courts can interpret and apply the law to specific cases without interference. In Hong Kong's case, that is different from the judiciary having the exclusive right to interpret the law.

This should not come as a surprise to anyone who has previously expressed concern over the NPC's Basic Law interpretations. Zhang's speech should not been seen as a "detriment" to Hong Kong's judiciary, because any harmful decisions were made long ago.

While some articles mistakenly translated Zhang's statement into phrases such as "Chief executive overrides executive, judiciary and legislature", he simply meant that Leung Chun-ying is accountable to both the Communist Party and to Hong Kong. Hence, he "transcends" the three powers.

All Zhang did was reiterate truths that Hongkongers knew but were reluctant to admit. Was he undermining our judicial system or granting sweeping, dictatorial powers to Leung? Absolutely not.

It is time to look beyond biased news articles and recognise the sad truths about Hong Kong.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Time to recognise the sad truths about HK


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