Financial Times “It is also symbolic that Hong Kong society as a whole wishes to see the rule of law and judicial independence being entrenched on a permanent basis.” by Michael Skapinker
'Hong Kong is living through its most turbulent political period since the British returned the territory to China in 1997. Its legislators last month failed to approve a system that would have allowed citizens to elect a chief executive from a list of candidates approved by a 1,200-strong committee drawn from the city’s elite. Last year, protesters — symbolised by the umbrellas they used to defend themselves against tear gas — occupied parts of Hong Kong for weeks in protest at the proposed chief executive election system, which they denounced as “fake democracy”.
'Amid this uncertainty, the legal system inherited from the British has been a beacon, a reassurance that the rule of law will be maintained, helping to ensure Hong Kong’s status as Asia’s leading financial centre.
'“It underpins pretty much everything,” says Richard Margolis, a former British diplomat who helped negotiate the handover agreement and stayed in Hong Kong to work for several companies, including Merrill Lynch and Rolls-Royce. The rule of law is “the single most important aspect of what makes Hong Kong different from the rest of China. It’s not just important from the point of view of external investment. It’s also important from the point of view of preserving investment confidence by Hong Kong’s own business community. It’s very difficult to overstate its importance.”
'With the rejection of Beijing’s preferred method of electing the chief executive, Hong Kong’s politics show little sign of regaining their equilibrium. Its people will rely, more than ever, on Hong Kong’s judges, steeped in their tradition of independence and neutrality, to provide the stability necessary for their continued prosperity.'