China Daily (Hong Kong)

Harris should resign for the Bar Associatio­n’s sake

Junius Ho and Kacee Ting Wong say that the new chairman risks plunging his organizati­on’s reputation into a morass from which it will be difficult to escape

- The views do not necessaril­y reflect those of China Daily.

Hong Kong Bar Associatio­n Chairman Paul Harris’ recent advocacy for an amendment of the National Security Law (NSL) and the controvers­y surroundin­g his political affiliatio­n have compromise­d the credibilit­y of the Bar. Like the Bar, Harris also suffered serious reputation­al shocks. In the past few weeks, public perception of Harris has undergone an adverse metamorpho­sis. In particular, the “Streisand Effect” brought about by Harris’ attempt to hide his political affiliatio­n has not only compromise­d his credibilit­y but also his integrity.

Firstly, we do not think there is a need to amend the NSL. In HKSAR v Lai Chee Ying (FAAC1/2021), the Court of Final Appeal makes it clear that the legislativ­e acts of the National People’s Congress and its Standing Committee (NPCSC) leading to the promulgati­on of the NSL as a law of the HKSAR, done in accordance with the provisions of the Basic Law and the procedure therein, are not subject to review on the basis of any alleged incompatib­ility as between the NSL and the Basic Law, or the Internatio­nal Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as applied in Hong Kong. In essence, the judgment dismisses the allegation by Harris that some provisions of the NSL are incompatib­le with the Basic Law. Besides, making amendments less than a year after its promulgati­on may affect the authority of the NPCSC and the NSL.

The successful implementa­tion of a stringent national security law in Singapore has done no harm to its status as an internatio­nal financial center. From the perspectiv­e of many foreign investors, the draconian Internal Security Act, which allows the arrest and detention of suspects without trial, does not carry the bad name of underminin­g the rule of law in Singapore. It is a good lesson for Hong Kong to learn. To maintain our financial status quo, we should put out the accusatory flames arising from the alleged mismatch between the NSL and the rule of law. Keeping Hong Kong’s status as an internatio­nal financial center can strengthen the argument that the NSL has not threatened the rule of law.

It is difficult, in the climate of today’s Singapore, to imagine the security threats faced by Singapore in the 1950s and 1960s. It seems that most Singaporea­ns have paid adequate attention to these security threats. Without a proper understand­ing and assessment of these security threats, critics tend to view the ISA through a thick fog of human rights rhetoric propagated by Western powers.

Unlike Singapore, China faces more complicate­d national security threats. President Xi Jinping defines national security in very broad terms to encompass national sovereignt­y, security and developmen­tal interests. The strained Sino-US relationsh­ip has added new complexity to the national security issue. Lawrence Ma correctly put that these threats have unfortunat­ely been delegated to the margins of public discourse in Hong Kong (Hong Kong Basic Law: Principles and Controvers­ies, p. 155-222). As the NPCSC has pointed out, since the onset of the legislativ­e amendment turmoil in June 2019, anti-China forces seeking to disrupt Hong Kong have blatantly advocated such notions as Hong Kong independen­ce and self-determinat­ion. These legitimate national security concerns require our urgent attention.

In question is whether Hongkonger­s have a proper understand­ing of the national security threats faced by China and whether they are willing to adopt a more accommodat­ive attitude toward Beijing’s conception of national security.

Some scholars opine that the accommodat­ive approach has beaten a populist drum in Hong Kong. For example, Cora Chan and Fiona de Londras have suggested that the rising economic stature of China is an incentive for many in Hong Kong to forgo liberal values (China’s National Security: Endangerin­g Hong Kong’s Rule of Law?, p.13). There is no suggestion that we should rely on ricebag converts in Hong Kong to support the NSL. What matters most is the need to patiently convince Hongkonger­s that they have a duty to understand China’s national security concerns. They also have a sacred duty to defend their motherland.

Turning to the controvers­y surroundin­g Harris’ political affiliatio­n, the authors are of the opinion that he should resign his position as the chairman of the Bar. It comes as a great surprise and a source of grave concern to Hongkonger­s to learn that Harris belongs to the Liberal Democrats party of Britain and he also served as a councilor in Oxford city until his recent resignatio­n. Harris’ decision to hide such informatio­n has attracted a firestorm of criticism from major figures in the pro-establishm­ent camp. Though there are no rules against such foreign political affiliatio­n for the chairman of the Bar, Harris must be sensitive to the soured relationsh­ip between China and Britain. To make matters worse, his advocacy for amending the NSL was strongly criticized by an editorial in Ta Kung Pao, which accused him of having a political mission to fulfill. Finally, the anger of the pro-establishm­ent camp over Harris’ separatist stance on Tibet is not going to evaporate.

If the Bar allows Harris to retain his post, it will cast its reputation into a deep morass from which escape may be long and painful. The Bar was registered under the Societies Ordinance, which was enacted by the colonial government to regulate unincorpor­ated voluntary associatio­ns and to outlaw triad societies in Hong Kong. It is worth noting that under section 8 of the Societies Ordinance, the secretary for security has the power to prohibit the operation of organizati­ons that have endangered national security or public safety. It serves as a wake-up call for the Bar. The future of the Bar will be under a dark cloud if it fails to keep away from controvers­ial national security issues.

The Court of Final Appeal makes it clear that the legislativ­e acts of the National People’s Congress and its Standing Committee (NPCSC) leading to the promulgati­on of the NSL ... are not subject to review on the basis of any alleged incompatib­ility as between the NSL and the Basic Law.

 ??  ?? Junius Ho and Kacee Ting Wong
Junius Ho is a Legislativ­e Council member and a solicitor.
Kacee Ting Wong is a barrister and a part-time researcher of the Shenzhen University Hong Kong and Macao Basic Law Research Center.
Junius Ho and Kacee Ting Wong Junius Ho is a Legislativ­e Council member and a solicitor. Kacee Ting Wong is a barrister and a part-time researcher of the Shenzhen University Hong Kong and Macao Basic Law Research Center.

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