Supporters outside the West Kowloon Magistrates Court
for the bail hearing for the 47 people charged with
have so many police officers out there to police the crowd?!
The emotional rollercoaster Hong Kongers have been put on for the past week continues to run, with even seasoned journalists signalling that their need for some respite and at least one openly admitting to having broken down and cried at the end of the marathon bail hearings for the 47 pro-democracy politicians and activists facing possible life in prison for having organized and/or participated in primary elections for the pro-democracy camp.
Things took an unexpected turn yesterday afternoon when the Department of Justice decided to drop its appeal of bail for four of the 47, resulting in barrister Lawrence Lau, Wan Chai District Council chair Clarisse Yeung, AbouThai boss Mike Lam and social worker Hendrick Lui getting out on bail after all. But even while there was indeed some joy at this news, there was unhappiness that the 43 others remained behind bars.
Any chance that the 11 whose granting of bail is still being appealed by the Department of Justice would get out today disappeared after the judge hearing the appeals decided that she needed more time to consider the arguments presented by both sides before reaching her decision. With these hearings adjourned until March 11th and 13th, that means that these folks will be spending at least half to one more week in jail.
Adding further injury to the male members among them, it's been learnt that all of the men charged and not out on bail are due to be transferred to the maximum security Stanley Prison and placed in solitary confinement: all this before the actual trial -- which, given the prosecution having stated that they need three months to further investigate the alleged crimes, will take place only three months down the road, at minimum -- as well as decision as to whether they are guilty as charged! At which point, it's worth bearing in mind, as lawyer Antony Dapiran pointed out in light of this disclosure: "According to the UN’s “Mandela Rules”, prolonged solitary confinement (more than 15 consecutive days) is regarded as a form of torture."
Amidst all this, it's easy to conclude that -- to quote a Reuters headline this week -- we're seeing the end of the road for Hong Kong's democratic dream. This is especially so in view of what's happening over in far away Beijing -- and I don't just mean Tung Chee-wah's literal fall inside the Great Hall of the People on Friday, which conjured up memories of Margaret Thatcher's fall down that same building's steps back in 1982 and got people seeing bad portends for Hong Kong.
Still, even while the news that Beijing is seeking to overhaul Hong Kong's electoral system seems to have captured international attention, I actually don't hear that much discussion and outcry about this here in Hong Kong. Call us cynical but the system has been rigged for some time now.
We're talking, after all, of the Chief Executive being selected rather than really elected. Also, as it currently stands, only a little over half of the Legislative Council is directly elected by voters through one-person-one-vote, while 30 seats belong to the functional constituencies whose “voters” are not people but companies. And this all before we get to talking about the vetting and disqualifications of political candidates which really has taken a life of its own in recent years.
So, if anything, what's incredible is that "the Chinese government felt the need to change what was already an electoral system heavily rigged in favour of the pro-Beijing camp"! But I guess it's also no more incredible that the international community still apparently is prone to be surprised by Beijing's antics and thus stuck at the "expressing condemnation and concern" stage of "appropriate" reaction (i.e., inaction) to what's going on in Hong Kong -- something that's been a continuation of what's been going on for years, if not decades, now.
In summary: the feeling in Hong Kong has been that the legislative branch of the Hong Kong government has been marching in line with the executive branch of the Hong Kong government and Beijing for some time now; this particularly after the Legislative Council turned democrat-free last November with the mass resignation of members of the pan-democrat camp after the disqualification of four of their number. Even as late as this week though, there are people still trying to have faith in the judiciary -- though, if truth be told, their actions of late don't exactly fill many of us with utmost confidence that they still can be and are truly independent. :(