Retired Hong Kong Final Court of Appeal Judge Henry Litton raises some important questions about the motivations of the 53 would-be legislators recently arrested in Hong Kong. Five Eyes countries including New Zealand were quick to condemn the arrests, but Litton states their aim was to implement a wider plot called “10-steps to mutual destruction,” and to use their powers as legislators to create chaos.
Litton outlines the shape of the plot, considers whether it may contravene the basic law as a “conspiracy to subvert’, discusses the likely defence based on black-letter law, as against the legislators fundamental requirement to act in good faith to promote the security and stability of Hong Kong. He notes the the police investigation is ongoing and nothing has yet been proven, but concludes that the Secretary for Security’s assertion that the whole operation is an “ugly plot” may be no exaggeration.
Henry Litton has been a judge in Hong Kong since 1992 and continued to hear cases until 2015. He is not an appointee of the PRC. His opinion is presumably to be taken seriously.
Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta criticised the arrests by tweet:
“Aotearoa New Zealand is deeply concerned by the recent arrest of a number of pro-democracy advocates in #HongKong,” she wrote. “This represents another effort to erode the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong and further undermine the one country two systems framework.”
If the Hong Kong judge is right this is far from the truth, in fact the opposite is the case. New Zealand’s statement was separated from the other Five Eyes joint statement which went further, but that just raises the question of the basis for the criticism. What advice was Nanaia Mahuta given by MFAT on the issue? Is it another case of follow-the-leader rather than a truly independent assessment based on good information on the ground.
If New Zealand wants to be an honest broker between the Australia and China, it will need to have very good information from the Chinese side. Much better than appears at present.