Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Mock Debate on "Habeas Corpus should never be suspended in cases involving terrorist suspects"

(At the International Parliamentary Conference on National Security, on 28 March 2017)

Madame Baroness, I speak to support the resolution proposed, “that this House agrees that habeas corpus should never be suspended in cases involving terrorist suspects.”

To me, habeas corpus is a fundamental part of the principles that form the spirit and the manifestation for the rule of law. The rule of law is all about putting limits on those with public power.

Sometimes it is easy for us to assume that every country in the world enjoys the same level of democracy. But, they don’t. In my territory, Hong Kong, for example, under the One Country, Two Systems arrangement, we are a part of the People’s Republic of China, with a supposedly high degree of autonomy, including our own independent judiciary branch. But we don’t have true democracy. Only last Sunday did we see that once again, a small Election Committee, that many of us would rather call a “Selection Committee”, picked a new Chief Executive for Hong Kong for the next five years, one favoured by Beijing, ahead of another much more popular candidates with a much higher support from the public.

So, increasingly we see our executive branch abusing its power, including prosecuting its political opponents. You may remember a prolonged but peaceful occupation of our central business district, in what was called the Occupy Central movement, or the Umbrella Movement, a few years ago, when our people protested for more democracy. Part of the reasons for the occupation was was because the police fired tear gas canisters at unarmed protestors in the beginning. Almost three years later, on this Monday, our government has just prosecuted the so-called organizers of the protests of public unrest. If this motion carries, my government might as well call me a terrorist.

So, the critical question is how you define terrorism, in a territory or country with no real democracy, where its legislature, like the one I came from, is elected without equal suffrage by its citizens, and is controlled by those who follow the central government, and our central government is a totalitarian regime ruled by a dictatorial politburo and a puppet legislature, all in Beijing, an often gross violator of human rights, a country where habeas corpus hardly exists. If we give up habeas corpus for one thing, it can be taken away for others. Indeed, for some of the people arrested and detained during the Umbrella Movement, if not for the writ of habeas corpus taken up by their lawyers to the court, they could not be freed from unreasonable detention by our law enforcement.

I think it is often easy for western countries to forget that what they do in the good intention of trying to make its own country safer may make themselves very bad examples to the rest of the undemocratic world where we don't enjoy the same level of democracy, due process and independent judiciary, or that these institutions are under serious threats. The implications of western countries to limit some people’s rights, even in the name of anti-terrorism, certainly will have serious impact beyond its own borders. So I have to support the motion put forward. 

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