As a civil servant in Hong Kong, for nearly 7 years, I am quite used to being “nominated" for those basic law courses, like the one I attended before my trip to China when the now completely out-of-control mass protest here was still pre-nascent.
Being so used to them is because basic law courses to us is not like driving license courses (completely ridden of it once you get the licence). Or, they are driving licences courses to us, whom the Government assume as those bad ones and dumb ones; so bad that ones love to speed drive; so dumb that ones love to speed in front of speed cameras. So we need to retake those courses many times in our career life. If I count a meaningless job like civil servants as career. I have taken those courses more than 3 times.
And don’t get me wrong. I don’t feel bored. Because the curriculum design for the courses has evolved in these years. At a breakneck pace as to being unrecognizable. Like Pokemon Litten evolves into Incinaroar! (Sorry my son has been watching Pokemon on my Netflix non-stop these months). The first time I had this course a couple of years ago was like a Martin Luther King Jr. went on a pulpit and gave a long, sweaty, spicy, passionate speech about the topics one could expect from Mugabe (RIP) or Boris Johnson (Jo Cox RIP) or Donald Trump (Please RIP!). Audience like me was annoyed and distraught with bombardment, but never faltered never cast doubt on what we had learned and what we had learned as truth. Simply bullshit theirs were!
Now, a couple of years later. On the pulpit stood a completely different person. A lawyer having a degree in LLB, and studying constitution as Phd. Scholarly, patient, talkative but not bellicose; funny but not out of taste. Sounded sensible as though we were in TED Talk somewhere in California. So different. So annoyed and distraught. This time, we really cast doubt on what we had learned and what we had learned as truth. We are really in an epoch in which we cannot tell for certainty truth from what’s not.! Esp. he used a lot of overseas constitution cases. One of the cases he used was UK Constitution when he prodded on the issue about the separation of Justice from Legislature and Executive. He said, 90% exactly, “UK’s system is not a separation of Justice from Legislature and Executive. Tell me, where is Privy Council where Judge has final judgments on any cases, even Constitutional? “…."Yeah. Privy Council is in House of Lords in Westminster Abby….That is a symbol….that UK’s system is a linkage, a close partnership of Justice with Legislature and Executive." That, to me, was unsettling. Mesmerizingly unsettling! A sound echoed in my heart after the course for so long (months I mean), “Is it true? If yes, then really I am wrong." So 1984. coz. I was so Winston after meeting O’Brien. The feeling that his may be wrong but I am not sure anymore. Truth is not but I am not sure. But am I wrong? At least I am not so sure again I am right! That’s the magic of Newspeak! That’s not Litten no more! That’s an Incinaroar! That’s even a Miu2! But I ain’t sure of anything no more now! or “?"
Recently, UK big news was the new prime minister Boris Johnson MP proposed to prorogue / temporarily shut the Parliament. But got 11 Judge in Final Court gave a verdict that such prorogation was unlawful and illegal. Unanimously. I am not going to give you any detail here. Coz you may not be interested. And I am not a good one to discuss politics. Something I don’t understand. You can read some materials down here.
Rather, I like to here recite something a lawyer or retired judge said in the interview right after Judge Hale read the gist of the verdict. 60% exactly this time, “This tells you the power of the balance of power under UK Constitution, which isn’t a rule book in itself. But it’s a combination of laws, customs, and regulations. So, on paper, it’s blurry that is open to abuse. But it is exactly that flexibility that those from Executive who wants to abuse this Constitutional Framework should expect a response and retort or reproach from the other two pillars of this Framework. This case is a textbook case of such response to stop the abuse of power."
From then on I finally got out of my self-doubt once again. A shout out to anyone who said the above. That Constitutional Umpire in National Tutorial on that pulpit a couple of years ago. That soothsaying, charming, patient basic law speaker. Hi. First of all. There is no such thing as UK Constitution. In retrospect, it is exactly why UK’s Brexit project got into such a messy chaos (coz there is no written material to guide either Justice, Executive, or Legislature, what UK should do after even a confirmatory referendum, like Scotland Independence in 2015. Not to mention an advisory one like Brexit in 2016). Second of all, the fact that Privy Council is in House of Lords*, in Westminster Abby, is nothing to do with the principle of the separation between the three pillars! As long each of the institutions has clearly written rules of thumbs/customs/laws/mechanisms to vouchsafe that principle of separation and check and balance. Even one day Privy Council were located under studio of Abby Road, we could still not say Privy Council is symbolically a linkage with the Beatles!! So, back to the fundamental question, 1. does Chinese Constitution has clear statement of how Judicial System can be separated from the Legislature and Executive in China. 2. does China have a workable mechanism to make sure the principle of check and balance between the three pillars can be implemented. and 3. Is China violating the mini-Constitution for HK? If yes, is it lawful? If yes, can the right of citizens here to turn it right be safeguarded?
Fail to answer the above key questions. No matter how symbolically you manage to make your speech like TED Talk. No matter how mesmerizing. No matter how masterful we blur the truth from what not. They are just symbol of nothing. After all you are no Miu2. You are not even Dedennette. You can pretend you are Ellen Degenereres. But you are still a crap.
* New note in December 2019 – “The judicial function formerly exercised by the House of Lords is now vested in the Supreme Court", A Practical Guide to Permitted Changes of Use under General Permitted Development Order, Third Edition, by Goodall, M.H.