By Tu Haiming
The US Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) did the unthinkable yet again recently by producing a report to intimidate all 29 Hong Kong judges who have handled cases under the National Security Law (NSL) implemented in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. This was the congressional body's latest yet most outrageous maneuver to smear and undermine the said law.
Judicial independence is a fundamental principle of the rule of law widely held around the world, under which judges conduct trials independently and free of any interference. It's safe to say that judicial independence is one of the cornerstones of the rule of law. US politicians love bragging about upholding judicial independence. The latest CECC maneuver only further exposes Washington's penchant for hypocrisy.
It was only natural for relevant departments of the central government to immediately condemn the CECC report and throw their weight behind members of Hong Kong's Judiciary in administering justice independently.
All sovereign states have the right to protect their national security. The US, for instance, has dozens of statutes in the name of national security and has launched numerous sanctions against China, including many officials of the Central People's Government and those of the HKSAR government over the years, using national security as an excuse. The fact is, those sanctions have done nothing but cast Washington's credibility in a bad light and hurt American interests one way or another. China enforces just one national security law in the HKSAR, and no sanctions by the US or other foreign governments can stop China from protecting its national security and interests.
Every time the US government has imposed sanctions against China, the Chinese government has resolutely countered with appropriate countermeasures. This time, should the US government really impose sanctions on Hong Kong judges as the Congressional-Executive Commission on China suggested, the central government will not sit idly by
Speaking of the NSL implemented for Hong Kong, it was promulgated precisely because US proxies in Hong Kong staged a "color revolution" that lasted for over seven months in 2019-20, causing severe damage to Hong Kong's economy and the well-being of local society as well as directly threatening China's national security.
China has every right to promulgate and enforce laws on safeguarding national security within its borders, including its HKSAR. No foreign governments can deny this right of China, and Beijing will do everything in its power to support and protect individuals involved in national security law enforcement in Hong Kong when they are under any form of threat, such as sanctions by foreign governments.
HK judicial system gains international recognition
Hong Kong's judicial system has long enjoyed widespread respect and admiration from the international community. This remains the case following the implementation of the NSL in June 2020, as evidenced by the city's high international ranking. Hong Kong ranked 22nd among 140 countries and jurisdictions in the World Justice Project's Rule of Law Index 2022, ahead of the US (26th). It ranked much higher — at sixth — in the "order and security" subindex.
Indeed, the NSL targets only a very small number of individuals who threaten national security, while safeguarding the lawful rights and freedoms of the majority of Hong Kong people.
Visitors to the city can see that a stable, harmonious, free and open Hong Kong is back after the NSL effectively kept the political agitators at bay: Students can now go to school without worry of being harmed; workers can now go back to work without disturbance; residents can now travel freely without hassle; shopowners now no longer worry about vandalism that was so commonplace during the 2019 riots. Anyone who is unbiased can see the positive impact of implementation of the NSL.
The CECC's so-called report was immediately condemned by the HKSAR's Judiciary, whose spokesperson noted that Hong Kong judges are bound by China's Constitution, the Basic Law and the National Security Law but not subject to the dictate of US politicians, who are in no position to instruct Hong Kong judges on how to rule in court cases.
Hong Kong judges are not intimidated by the threat of sanctions. Along with the Judiciary, the city's two major legal associations and many judicial personnel strongly condemned the malicious attack on Hong Kong's judiciary, demonstrating their determination to uphold the rule of law and judicial independence in Hong Kong.
Xia Baolong, director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, said in a speech on National Security Education Day last month: "The Judiciary is the guardian of the rule of law in Hong Kong. ... We believe that with its admirable professionalism and strong sense of responsibility, it will surely shoulder the glorious mission of safeguarding national security and safeguarding the rule of law in Hong Kong". Indeed, their response to the CECC report proved once again that the great majority of the members of the Judiciary have backbone, and are reliable guardians of Hong Kong's judicial independence and rule of law.
After implementation of the NSL, the US government imposed sanctions on a dozen central government and HKSAR officials for their involvement in its implementation. Earlier, the CECC also called for sanctions against Secretary for Justice Paul Lam Ting-kwok and a number of prosecutors.
Every time the US government has imposed sanctions against China, the Chinese government has resolutely countered with appropriate countermeasures. This time, should the US government really impose sanctions on Hong Kong judges as the CECC suggested, the central government will not sit idly by. China's previous countermeasures against some anti-China politicians in the US have hit home. China can continue to use these effective sanctions against certain anti-China politicians in the US.
While the power of US sanctions is diminishing, China has ample "tools" to choose from in its "toolbox" of countermeasures. Beijing has the courage and means to counter any US sanctions.
The author is vice-chairman of the Committee on Liaison with Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and Overseas Chinese of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, and chairman of the Hong Kong New Era Development Thinktank. The views do not necessarily reflect those of Bauhinia Magazine.