Exercising Principled Law in an increasingly totalitarian environment is impossible

UK judges are source of strength for Hong Kong’ says Derek Sweeting QC quoted by Jonathan Ames in The Times today.

When I lived in Hong Kong in the 1980s a barrister (later a QC) was a friend of mine. His father had been a senior judge in the colony. The mix of lawyers in the system between Brits and locals worked well. A good legal system and a benign but competent local administration to an extent compensated for the lack of proper representative democracy.

Today all is very different. Martin Lee, himself a barrister, a long term campaigner for human rights will shortly be tried for his role in protests. He is not alone. The rule of law established by the Joint Declaration and applied in 1997 is slipping away.

The Chinese have moved to tighten their hegemony as back in the 1980s we always feared that one day they might. “One Country, two systems” is being replaced by “One country, one system”.

The continued involvement of British judges in the Hong Kong might have been a useful check and balance if the Joint Declaration had been respected. It is clear that the Chinese have no intention of doing this. In these circumstances it is an affront for British judges to be involved.

Hong Kong was always a lucrative posting for a British lawyer. Barristers and Judges lived in some comfort and they no doubt still do. But he who pays the piper calls the tune and however high the fee there’s no doubt who are the masters now. But the exercising of principled Law in an increasingly totalitarian environment is impossible. The Brits should pack their bags and go.

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