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Thursday, July 18, 2019, 19:29
'One country, two systems' worth defending
By Grenville Cross
Thursday, July 18, 2019, 19:29 By Grenville Cross

Although public protests are part of a free society, they lose legitimacy once violence intrudes. The Hong Kong protest movement has now been hijacked by extremists, and has forfeited any claims to public sympathy. It is being used as a cover by people who wish to wage war on society, using any means.

Although the chief executive made an important concession to the protesters last month over the extradition bill, they were not satisfied.  This should surprise nobody, as they are insatiable. As the English say, “he who pays the Danegeld never gets rid of the Dane”.

In consequence, we are now witnessing a sustained assault on the very fabric of our society. As they showed on July 1, when they smashed into the Legislative Council building, the extremists want secession, and the extradition bill is simply a sideshow. Why else would they desecrate Hong Kong’s regional emblem, rip up the Basic Law, and announce that “Hong Kong is not China”.

By provoking the police at every opportunity, the extremists hope to destroy their morale and wear them out. If law and order can be weakened, they hope the government’s authority will be undermined, with chaos resulting. Let nobody be under any illusions, these people want Hong Kong to fail, precisely because a successful Hong Kong reflects well on Beijing, which they want to prevent.As the extremists should know full well, China will never grant independence to Hong Kong, no matter how troublesome it may be. This means, therefore, that they have now resorted to Plan B, which involves disrupting our way of life, injuring police officers, and subverting the rule of law.

The Hong Kong protest movement has now been hijacked by extremists, and has forfeited any claims to public sympathy. It is being used as a cover by people who wish to wage war on society, using any means

The central government authorities, of course, will do all they can to uphold “one country, two systems”, so the extremists’ only hope is to force their hand. Beijing must, therefore, proceed with great caution.

If a state of emergency were to be declared, to restore order, the army would be deployed, in support of the police. This, quite clearly, would be a huge setback for Hong Kong’s “high degree of autonomy”, and would unnerve many people. It would, moreover, enable the secessionists, along with their “pan-democrat” apologists and foreign allies, to condemn Beijing for crude heavy-handedness.

If, moreover, the central government authorities concluded, given the chaos, that “one country, two systems” had failed, and needed to be wound up prematurely, China’s enemies would be delighted, at having fresh grounds for condemnation. Beijing would be accused of perfidy, for having renounced the Sino-British Joint Declaration. In any event, Hong Kong, as a special administrative region, still has value for China, though this diminishes with every passing year.

Traps, therefore, are being set, for both the central and local governments, by people who care nothing for Hong Kong, but only see it as a pawn in their global anti-China campaign. The public must now wake up to what is at stake, before it is too late. Hong Kong’s capitalist system and way of life are supposed to last at least until 2047, but this is now being imperilled by the secessionists and their allies. 

In the meantime, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor must do all she can to uphold the rule of law. She should make no concessions to the men of violence, and give her full support to our police and prosecutors. She may have lost a battle, but she can still win through, with courage, determination and vision.

Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung must do whatever it takes to maintain law and order. There can be no more pussy-footing around, and frontline officers must be given every support. His officers have shown incredible restraint, yet were rewarded by a mob beating up their injured colleague as he lay helpless in a Sha Tin plaza. Kid glove tactics have failed, and lawbreakers must now face zero tolerance.

Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah also has a pivotal role to play. A dedicated team of prosecutors should be appointed, to advise on charges and prosecute the cases in court. Those involved in the riots, unlawful wounding and criminal damage must be prosecuted  if the evidence suffices. So also must those people who attempted to pervert the course of public justice, by threatening Lam with disruption if she did not stop ongoing police investigations. The huge delays which arose in processing the “Occupy Central” cases must, moreover, be avoided, with cases going expeditiously to court.

Although the judiciary is independent, it still needs to do all it can to uphold the rule of law. Its own sentencing guidelines indicate that people who cause public disorder and injure others must expect to receive condign punishment, and these must be applied. The only way in which the courts can demonstrate their abhorrence of a particular type of conduct is through the sentences they pass, and this will ensure that justice is done. Special courts may also be required to clear the many cases.

The Information Services Department, moreover, must ramp up its efforts to get the government’s messages out, if necessary through briefings and full-page advertisements in foreign newspapers. Its case, for example on extradition, is overwhelming, and must not be allowed to go by default. If things are properly explained, understanding will follow, particularly abroad.

Confronted, therefore, with China-haters, secessionists and thugs, everyone in a position of responsibility must now step up to the plate, and do all they can to protect Hong Kong. Let us never forget, that all that is required for bad people to succeed is for good people to do nothing.

The author is a senior counsel, law professor and criminal justice analyst, and was previously the director of public prosecutions in Hong Kong.

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