Gian Peralta – Reading for a Bachlor’s Degree in Law (Honours) at the University of Malta
Published on 1st June 2020
Since 1997, The city of Hong Kong has enjoyed greater autonomy than the rest of mainland China due to its status as a Special Administrative Region (SAR). Through its status as a former British colony, and the Sino-British Joint Declaration, Hong Kong enjoys its own de facto constitution through Hong Kong Basic Law, a homogenous economic system, and its own organs of the state. In return, Hong Kong delegates issues regarding foreign affairs and legal interpretations of Basic Law to the central government in Beijing.
It is this political liberty, along with a shrinking trust in the People’s Republic of China and the current autonomy Hong Kong holds that led to the dissidence currently occurring within the city. The spark that lit this powder-keg of discontent was an extradition treaty. Specifically, The Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019 which would allow the transfer of any fugitive to any jurisdiction with whom the city does not share a formal extradition treaty with, including Mainland China. The removal of this separation of Jurisdiction, according to opponents of the bill, would not only have led to the erosion of the autonomy Hong Kong currently enjoys, but it would also allow mainland China to spirit political opponents away with greater ease, as was the case with high-profile entrepreneur Xiao Jianhua. It is this lack of faith in the PRC and it’s respect for human rights that led to the grave situation that exists today. On the 28th of May 2020 The decision to establish and improve a legal framework and enforcement mechanism for safeguarding national security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region was adopted by the Central People’s government to prevent any external influence over Hong Kong to subvert the PRC and criminalise any subversion or secession of the government. This decision was seen by many scholars as the death of the “1 country 2 systems” legal order that has been the norm in recent history with US Senator Mike Pompeo making the historical declaration that Hong Kong is no longer autonomous.
Due to political tensions, several physical conflicts have arisen between all fronts, specifically; the radical protesters, the local law-enforcement and counter-protesters who support the unification of China. The greatest offender of the unwritten rules of engagement however, is the Hong Kong Police Department. Not only has the Department been guilty of utilising disproportionately violent means of engaging protesters, it has also been found guilty of preventing protesters from receiving medical aid from first-aiders, tampering with the freedom of the press, several officers have been accused of engaging in degrading, barbaric and downright monstrous behaviour towards subdued/compliant detainees. This behaviour ranges from using them as human shields, forcing them to inhale tear gas, organised beatings and denied access to legal and medical services.
This lack of accountability from the long arm of the law is dangerous and unbalanced. As individuals living within society and all the rules that govern it, we expect protection from the entities who seek to threaten our livelihood in return for our compliance with those rules. When that implicit social contract has been breached, what is to stop civilisation from crumbling upon its foundations? If civilians are held in check by the police, who keeps the lawman in line? It is times like these when we must ask ourselves, what do we stand for? And what are we willing to face in order to stand against adversity?
Disclaimer: the views expressed in this publication are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Society.