The protest art's still on the shutter but the Liu Xiaobo statue's
that had been placed near it is there no longer
Remember Samuel Bickett? Yesterday afternoon, the Hong Kong-based American lawyer (whose Twitter account is very much worth following) Tweeted a reminder that he'd be appearing in a court this morning for his appeal hearing. Yesterday also saw the publication of a Vox piece about his case and what it will say about the future of Hong Kong's courts, a few choice lines of which I'm sharing below:
Bickett wants justice for himself. But his case is not just his own — it intersects with Hong Kong’s own turmoil, driven by Beijing’s ever-tightening crackdown on the city’s democratic freedoms. It has become another marker of the lack of accountability for the police and of the deep concern around the deterioration of the rule of law...“I don’t think rule of law can be said to exist in Hong Kong in a meaningful way at this point,” Bickett said this month. That, though, is something he’s fighting for, even if one of the only ways he can do it is through a legal system that is being hollowed out...Bickett was not a protester, just a guy going holiday shopping with a friend [back on December 7th, 2019]. But the case has resonated because it may be less of an isolated incident than a glimpse into a police force able to operate with impunity...Bickett’s case... might not offer a clear-cut conclusion [regarding how truly impartial and just the Hong Kong judicial system remains]. If he is remanded to prison, will that be because the judge who hears his case fully believed he was in the wrong? Or because he embarrassed the police? If he is exonerated, maybe that will be a last gasp for Hong Kong’s judicial system. Or maybe there are cynical reasons: Bickett has been outspoken, and he is an American; maybe it isn’t worth it to send him back to prison.
At the time of writing, Bickett remains out free. As the man himself Tweeted this afternoon: "My High Court appeal has been adjourned until a later date for the ruling." He also stated that: "In these circumstances I am not going to make any substantive comments on the hearing". So thank goodness we have Xinqi Su to recap the high -- or should I say low? -- points of it as well as report on the reception Bickett received when he arrived in court today.
With regards to the former: those came by way of presiding judge Esther Toh who, it's very much worth noting, is a national security law-designated judge. Re which of her comments constituted the absolute nadir -- you be the judge as to whether it was when she: mistakenly described punching as "fisting"; decided it was an exaggeration to describe a police baton as a weapon (since it's not a gun); or found it "understandable" that an policeman would shout “Indecent assault” when he was chasing another person (who, as it turned out, was only guilty at most of having jumped an MTR turnstile)!
In any case, it doesn't seem like Esther Toh is inclined to view the defence's case impartially, let alone kindly. So it's hard to disagree with the assessment made by Goofrider over on Twitter that: "It'd be short of a miracle he wins at the appellate court level. The only real chance of winning appeal is going all the way to the [Court of Final Appeal]."
Incidentally, a few weeks back, I chatted with an Independent Commission Against Corruption officer who maintained that the Hong Kong judiciary was still in working order -- or, at the very least, the Court of Final Appeal was still okay. But he did accept my point that it takes quite a bit of time and a whole lot of money for a case to end up being heard by Hong Kong's top court -- and that most defendants, be they political or non-political ones, won't be able to afford the legal fees that this entails; this particularly in the wake of such as the 6.12 Humanitarian Relief Fund having ceased operations.
Let's hope that Samuel Bickett won't have to take his case all the way to the Court of Final Appeal. And, really, he shouldn't have to. (Just watch the video showing the actions that led to his arrest!) Also, of course, we must hope that the outcome of his appeal will be in not just his favor but also that of justice itself.
Speaking of outcomes and updates: With regards to the statue of Liu Xiaobo which had been placed outside the Tin Hau branch of Chickeeduck, it's as we had feared but also pretty much knew would be the case. In short: the statue was indeed removed from that location yesterday -- one day before the deadline stipulated by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department.
Since it was removed by a member of the League of Social Democrats (which owns the statue) and Chickeeduck owner Herbert Chow -- rather than the authorities -- though, there is a chance that it will reappear in another location at some point. Where exactly we don't know yet but, at the very least, we can be very sure that it won't be M+ -- which, I'm sorry, but I just can't work up much enthusiasm about. Pretty sad, really, as I had so looked forward to checking out (more) of its collection not that long ago.