Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Johannes Chan on a Dynamic Relationship between the Judiciary in a Liberal Society of Hong Kong and a Socialist-Leninist Sovereign State (Current Legal Problems)

First Published 27 September 2019
Abstract: Hong Kong provides a unique case study on the roles and functions of the judiciary within an authoritarian or semi-authoritarian sovereign. Under the unique constitutional arrangement in Hong Kong, a liberal common law judiciary in a highly sophisticated modern metropolis is encapsulated within a Socialist-Leninist sovereign regime that ideologically rejects separation of powers, independence of the judiciary and values of individual liberalism. Notwithstanding the sharp ideological differences and the greatly asymmetrical distribution of social, economic and political powers in this One Country, Two Systems constitutional model, it is argued that the relationship between the courts and the authoritarian sovereign power is and has been complex and dynamic. The Hong Kong courts have been able to create their institutional space by establishing an impressive liberal constitutional common law, but that constitutional space is shrinking as the over-zealous sovereign is increasingly assertive of its views on matters that it perceives to be affecting state interests. By examining a series of controversial decisions, this paper argues that there are reasons that the courts could, with creativity and sensitivity, maintain a delicate and balanced relationship with the sovereign without succumbing to the political pressure, but that the greatest threat of independence of the judiciary comes from within the judiciary in internalizing the values of the socialist state.  Click here to read the full article.

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