Rachel Cart­land

Hopes leg­is­la­tors’ dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tions will have a pos­i­tive spin-off by re­plac­ing tom­fool­ery and the­atrics with anal­y­sis and de­ci­sion-mak­ing on is­sues placed be­fore LegCo

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

Per­haps I take things too se­ri­ously… Some years ago, I served on a Hong Kong jury. In com­mon with my fel­low ju­rors, I took the oath that went with that role and did so with the solem­nity that seemed ap­pro­pri­ate for the oc­ca­sion. In­deed, any­one con­cerned about the rule of law in Hong Kong would surely have been re­as­sured if they could have eaves­dropped on our de­lib­er­a­tions in the jury room as we wres­tled with the ev­i­dence, de­ter­mined to do the right thing not only by the man in the dock but also by the whole prin­ci­ple of jus­tice.

As a civil ser­vant I was never sworn in as a mem­ber of the Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil but I of­ten at­tended its de­lib­er­a­tions, whether in the Fi­nance Com­mit­tee, sub­ject pan­els or Bills Com­mit­tees. I tried my best to pre­pare prop­erly for those ap­pear­ances so that I could an­swer ques­tions and ex­plain poli­cies clearly and com­pre­hen­sively. I felt that our law­mak­ing body de­served no less, and by ex­ten­sion, our ci­ti­zens.

Now as a pri­vate cit­i­zen I can ex­er­cise my right to cast a vote for a district coun­cil or LegCo rep­re­sen­ta­tive. Even if it is in­con­ve­nient to go to the polling sta­tion I will make sure that I am there and that I have pre­pared be­fore­hand by read­ing and think­ing about what sort of can­di­date I want to sup­port, and about my as­pi­ra­tions for the sort of rep­re­sen­ta­tive he or she will prove to be. This seems to me to be a min­i­mum re­quire­ment for be­ing a good cit­i­zen and play­ing a part in the com­mu­nity we live in.

I am not afraid to say that my vote might be given to a mem­ber of the “pan-demo­cratic” camp but it is also my hope that, if elected, this per­son will turn out to be some­one who does not in­dulge in child­ish tricks, tantrums and un­con­struc­tive demon­stra­tions. My ideal rep­re­sen­ta­tive will study the is­sues be­fore the coun­cil, read deeply and con­sult widely be­fore com­ing to a con­clu­sion clearly based on an im­par­tial anal­y­sis aim­ing only to achieve what is best for the com­mu­nity as a whole. I do not be­lieve that my hope is a very odd one and, in­deed, I think that it is shared by the ma­jor­ity in our com­mu­nity, where the pre­vail­ing spirit is one of prag­ma­tism. In­deed, I would go fur­ther and say most would like to see our leg­is­la­tors work­ing in an even-handed man­ner with their civil ser­vice and min­is­te­rial coun­ter­parts so that by a time-hon­ored process of give and take con­sen­sus can be achieved and the com­mu­nity can move for­ward with worth­while ini­tia­tives, and con­flict­ing views can be re­solved am­i­ca­bly.

Alas, as we all know, for more than 20 years LegCo has not been such as we dream of. Rather than a place of cour­te­ous and rea­soned dis­cus­sion it has been dis­fig­ured by fil­i­bus­ter­ing, the­atrics, up­roar, over­the-top po­lit­i­cal grand­stand­ing and fi­nally, a re­fusal to take oaths with the se­ri­ous­ness they de­serve. We had wearily come to ac­cept this but the com­pla­cency has been brought to an al­most shock­ing halt by Mr Jus­tice Thomas Au Hing-che­ung’s rul­ing that cer­tain leg­is­la­tors should be dis­qual­i­fied on ac­count of fail­ure to take their oaths in proper form and with due sin­cer­ity.

No one who has Hong Kong’s best in­ter­ests at heart can avoid feel­ing re­gret about this episode from be­gin­ning to end. How­ever, there may be a sil­ver lin­ing and it may even prove a cat­a­lyst for pos­i­tive change. Per­haps it will turn out to be like the cup of cold water poured over a stag­ger­ing drunk­ard that brings him to his senses and makes him see his dam­ag­ing ac­tions for what they are. The chair­man of LegCo’s Rules of Pro­ce­dure Com­mit­tee has in­di­cated that this turn of events will not be used as an op­por­tu­nity to do any­thing like chang­ing the rules on fil­i­bus­ter­ing. This is states­man­like and the lack of schaden­freude and tri­umphal vin­dic­tive­ness should re­as­sure the “pan-demo­cratic” side, who should also look to the con­cil­ia­tory state­ments over this sorry saga by the new Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Car­rie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. By-elec­tions will be held in due course and it is to be hoped that ev­ery can­di­date will learn from what has hap­pened and will af­firm a clear in­ten­tion to treat LegCo and the po­si­tion of leg­isla­tive coun­cilor with the re­spect and sense of duty that the post re­quires. Those who do other­wise are, in ef­fect, in­sult­ing the vot­ers that they claim to wish to serve. Sup­port will leach away from politi­cians who jeop­ar­dize their po­si­tion by what amounts to tom­fool­ery, which can­not be ex­cused by any amount of high-minded sophistry, and this will be an out­come aris­ing not from the op­pres­sion and in­tim­i­da­tion from the es­tab­lish­ment but rather a ver­dict aided by the sober good sense of the peo­ple of Hong Kong through an im­par­tial court rul­ing.

By-elec­tions will be held in due course and it is to be hoped that ev­ery can­di­date will learn from what has hap­pened and will af­firm a clear in­ten­tion to treat LegCo and the po­si­tion of leg­isla­tive coun­cilor with the re­spect and sense of duty that the post re­quires.

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