Bi­ased Western me­dia get HK ju­di­ciary facts wrong

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - 11 Comment Editorial • Opinion -

In an at­tempt to de­fend Hong Kong’s ju­di­ciary from vi­cious, un­just at­tacks, par­tic­u­larly from the bi­ased Western me­dia, Car­rie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Hong Kong Spe­cial Ad­min­is­tra­tive Re­gion, reem­pha­sized the vi­brancy of the SAR’s ju­di­cial in­de­pen­dence on Satur­day. With­out any ba­sis or ev­i­dence, some Western me­dia out­lets and politi­cians, in­clud­ing a cou­ple of US Congress mem­bers, joined a cho­rus last week to ac­cuse Bei­jing of med­dling in a Hong Kong court case, in which three young ac­tivists were im­pris­oned.

There is noth­ing new or un­usual about such ac­cu­sa­tions, as some Western me­dia out­lets and politi­cians are known to har­bor hos­til­ity to­ward China. And they hardly let slip an op­por­tu­nity to soil Bei­jing’s rep­u­ta­tion.

But they were bark­ing up the wrong tree when they at­tacked Hong Kong’s ju­di­ciary and ques­tioned its in­de­pen­dence af­ter the city’s Court of Ap­peal sen­tenced Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Alex Chow Yong-kang to im­pris­on­ment of be­tween six and eight months for of­fenses re­lated to un­law­ful as­sem­bly.

The im­pris­on­ment of the three re­flects “the voice of Bei­jing, not of jus­tice”, The Guardian said in an editorial. Chris Pat­ten, the last Bri­tish gover­nor of Hong Kong, in a let­ter to Fi­nan­cial Times, said the three ac­tivists’ im­pris­on­ment is “a fur­ther ex­am­ple of Bei­jing tight­en­ing its grip on Hong Kong’s as­pi­ra­tion to re­main a free so­ci­ety”. And a Fi­nan­cial Times’ com­men­ta­tor claimed Bei­jing is “clearly re­treat­ing from the com­mit­ments ... to guar­an­tee free speech, press and as­sem­bly” for Hong Kong res­i­dents.

But the ac­cusatory voices were si­lenced by the swift re­sponse from the SAR’s ju­di­ciary, the Bar As­so­ci­a­tion and Law So­ci­ety of Hong Kong, which is­sued a rare joint state­ment con­demn­ing the “un­founded crit­i­cism” by “some lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional me­dia”. The two le­gal pro­fes­sional bod­ies, which to­gether rep­re­sent all the city’s lawyers and have fought for ju­di­cial in­de­pen­dence, said the judges han­dled the case strictly based on es­tab­lished le­gal prin­ci­ples and pro­ce­dures, and all the de­fen­dants were given proper le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

In­deed, the slan­der­ers are guilty of pre­tend­ing to be un­aware of the in­de­pen­dence and qual­ity of Hong Kong’s ju­di­ciary. The city’s ju­di­cial in­de­pen­dence is ranked eighth glob­ally by the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum, well ahead of the United States (29th). And the World Jus­tice Project Rule of Law In­dex, which mea­sures peo­ple’s ex­pe­ri­ence and per­cep­tion about the rule of law across the world, placed Hong Kong at 16th among 113 ju­ris­dic­tions on its 2016 list — ahead of “big democ­ra­cies” such as the US (18), France (21) and Italy (35).

Of course, facts will even­tu­ally scotch the lies. But that does not spare us the obli­ga­tion to set the record straight.

In­dia stands to face ret­ri­bu­tion

In­dia has started build­ing a road near Ban­gong Lake in Ladakh, which, ac­cord­ing to In­dian me­dia, will fa­cil­i­tate the move­ment of In­dian troops. This sug­gests In­dia might be pre­par­ing for a war with China, or pre­tend­ing to go to war in the hope of forc­ing China into mak­ing con­ces­sions. In­dian troops tres­passed into China’s ter­ri­tory in the Donglang area more than two months ago to stop Chi­nese troops from build­ing a road in its own ter­ri­tory, claim­ing the road would pose a threat to In­dia’s se­cu­rity. Why doesn’t the In­dian gov­ern­ment ap­ply the same logic to un­der­stand that by build­ing a road near the dis­puted border area with China, In­dia will pose a threat to its neigh­bor’s na­tional se­cu­rity?

Whether In­dia has the eco­nomic and mil­i­tary where­withal to be­come a hege­mon is still un­cer­tain, but it in­deed is be­hav­ing like one con­sid­er­ing its de­ci­sion to send its troops into Chi­nese ter­ri­tory by as­sum­ing it is Bhutan’s pro­tec­tor and its in­sis­tence of keeping them there lead­ing to the more than two-month-long stand­off with Chi­nese troops.

In­dia claims to be act­ing on be­half of Bhutan, but many in Bhutan feel In­dia’s pro­tec­tive embrace has be­come suf­fo­cat­ing, ac­cord­ing to a re­port in The New York Times. Pema Gyamt­sho, a leader of the op­po­si­tion party in Bhutan’s Na­tional As­sem­bly, was quoted as say­ing that in the case of a war be­tween In­dia and China, Bhutan would be­come the meat in the sand­wich.

In­stead of safe­guard­ing Bhutan’s na­tional se­cu­rity, In­dia is ac­tu­ally bul­ly­ing the tiny coun­try, as Bhutan doesn’t seem to have sought In­dia’s help. As such, In­dia is tak­ing ad­van­tage of Bhutan, in order to as­sert it­self as a re­gional su­per­power.

And in do­ing so, In­dia is punch­ing above its weight, per­haps be­cause it be­lieves China will do what­ever it can to avoid a mil­i­tary con­flict with In­dia. In­dia’s de­ci­sion-mak­ers may be com­pla­cent in the be­lief that they have made the right de­ci­sion given China’s tol­er­ance and re­peated warn­ings over the past more than two months.

But if In­dia con­tin­ues to think so, it can­not es­cape the ret­ri­bu­tion it de­serves for what it has done. It’s only a mat­ter of time.

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