chapter  19
The future of Hong Kong’s criminal justice
Pages 14

Britain handed Hong Kong back to China as a special administrative region (SAR) on 1 July 1997. The Sino-British Joint Declaration guaranteed Hong Kong would maintain high-level autonomy and retain its capitalist system for 50 years under the model of ‘One Country, Two Systems’. Under the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (hereafter referred to as the Basic Law), the mini-constitution of Hong Kong, the governor was replaced by a locally elected but Beijing-appointed chief executive, and the criminal justice system was to continue, together with the political, legal, economic and social systems. In fact, China has opposed any radical reforms that would establish a fully

democratic government in Hong Kong, even though China has promised a high degree of autonomy. To China, the problem of Hong Kong is mainly one of sovereignty and not human rights (Lee, 1987), and thus its old colonial political system is ideal because of the great concentration of power in the hands of the chief executive and SAR government. It is not surprising to see that since the transfer of sovereignty, Hong Kong’s political development has not been progressive. The calls for universal suffrage by the pro-democracy camp have not been thoroughly addressed (Ma, 2007). They are worried that Beijing will interfere with the internal affairs of Hong Kong and tighten its control over political activities. The year 2014, characterised by the Umbrella Movement, represented a

watershed in the political history of Hong Kong. The SAR government was confronted by young people who did not share their appreciation of Mainland China, and coercion was used to suppress their demonstrations. The police became the SAR government’s reserve army (Hall et al., 1978: 202) and were brought in to maintain legal order, force the youths back into conformity and preserve the status quo. However, in a politically divided society, rule by coercion functions less effectively. Although the government was successful in

suppressing the demonstrations, it failed to convince the people of the prodemocracy camp of its legitimacy. Political events had already sensitised them to such problems as corruption, injustice and social inequality and so, when they became conscious of this suppression, they questioned the validity of ‘One Country, Two Systems’, giving rise to localism power. Against this backdrop, this concluding chapter examines the future challenges

faced by certain major sectors of the criminal justice system of Hong Kong. In view of the quickening pace of political change and the rapid progress of ‘mainlandisation’ (Mainland China) within Hong Kong’s political, economic and legal systems, this chapter argues that Hong Kong’s legal system is losing its autonomy; the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is challenged by increasing conflicts of interest among senior officials; the police are overwhelmed by political policing; and the court has become a site of struggle and contestation between opposing political forces.