The Hong Kong Judiciary and Beijing’s Temper Tantrum

On 18 November 2019, Hong Kong’s Court of First Instance held that parts of the Emergency Regulations Ordinance, and the Prohibition on Face Covering Regulation enacted pursuant to the Ordinance, violate the territory’s Basic Law – its constitutional instrument. Beijing’s response to the ruling was the equivalent of a temper tantrum. Viewed in light of the Court’s judgment and Beijing’s lengthy history of undermining the Hong Kong judiciary, Beijing’s latest outbursts amount to nothing less than a declaration of war on the territory’s common law legal system.

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Demise of "One Country, Two Systems"?

Hong Kong’s existence as a liberal pocket within a socialist party state has been a risky experiment from the outset. The substance of the dispute about extradition to mainland China does not pertain to the viability of the “one country, two systems” governing model. The way in which the saga unfolded, however, reveals flaws in Hong Kong’s political system that, if unrectified, may prove fatal to the model.

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A Perfect Storm

On 9 June 2019, Hong Kong became the focus of international attention as hundreds of thousands of demonstrators marched on Hong Kong Island to oppose the imminent enactment of a bill that would introduce a rendition arrangement, inter alia, as between Hong Kong and other parts of China (including mainland China, Taiwan and Macau). This legislative proposal has not only led to the largest protests in the history of postcolonial Hong Kong but has also brought about one of the greatest crises of governance in post-1997 Hong Kong.

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