Pearls and Irritations
27 Nov 2022
Recently, a correspondent on Australia’s national broadcaster casually referred to Hong Kong as a “police state”. This ignores that the courts operate under common law rules. The role of the judge is key. They are not mouth-pieces of the central government. In HKSAR v Lai Man-ling & 4 Others, Hong Kong’s image overseas has been tarnished by a decision to convict people for writing a children’s book, a judgement which no one can understand and which was wrong.
Radio National is Australia’s national broadcaster, exercising wide influence.
In commenting on the outcome of the recent 20th Party Congress whereby Mr Xi Jinping’s term as General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party was extended for another five years, the correspondent casually referred to Hong Kong as a “police state”. This was not an isolated incident. Many Western media outlets, in commenting on criminal convictions by the Hong Kong courts in national security-related cases, have categorised those courts as mouth-pieces of the Central Government, ignoring the fact that the courts operate under common law rules and principles. To dispel such misconceptions – or to quash such bias – it is of importance that in reaching their verdicts courts should make their reasons clear, intelligible and transparent.
HKSAR v Lai Man-ling & 4 Others [ Criminal Case No.854/2021, 10/9/2022 ]
This brings into prominence the case where five university-trained speech therapists were convicted of conspiracy to publish and distribute seditious publications and sentenced to 19 months’ imprisonment. These were books of cartoons with accompanying commentary. The story line concerned wolves subjugating a village of sheep. The case has attracted worldwide attention. The District Judge’s Reasons for Verdict is 68 pages long, with 47 footnotes: dead on arrival for the average reader... Click here to read the full article.