Hypocrisy marks EU criticism of Hong Kong

2019-09-06 10:12:26 China Daily Global Mo Hong'e

"Be you ever so high," said the eminent British jurist Lord Denning, "the law is above you."

In the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, some people seem to think they can commit crimes with impunity. If so, they are only deceiving themselves. For some, at least, the day of reckoning is now on the horizon.

A number of after-the-event arrests have been made in recent days of assorted criminal suspects, including some professional agitators and secondary politicians, who are accused of various public order offenses. Though delayed, these arrests should come as no surprise. Nobody is beyond the reach of the law, and no amount of squealing by the suspects or their apologists can change this.

After all, in a civilized society, neither name recognition nor clout in foreign capital can shield suspected lawbreakers from arrest, and there can certainly be no special treatment for particular individuals. Once the police have a reasonable suspicion that somebody has committed an offense, legal processes must take their course. After arrest, evidence permitting, the suspects will, in due course, be prosecuted on those charges where there is a reasonable prospect of conviction.

Although the fanatics are trying to destroy the rule of law, equality of treatment still lies at its heart, and must be safeguarded from their depredations.

The identification of the suspects will, in most cases, have involved painstaking police investigation, although it may also reflect sound intelligence gathering. Quite clearly, if suspects are not caught in the act, every effort must be made to track them down subsequently. The present charges, moreover, could only be holding charges, and there may be extra offenses once the evidence has been evaluated by the Department of Justice.

Once again, the European Union, for its own partisan purposes, has sought to exploit the situation. Earlier this year, even though nine of its member states had already signed extradition treaties with the Chinese mainland, the EU expressed its concerns to Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor over the city having a similar arrangement.

This, of course, was the height of hypocrisy, not least because Bulgaria, France, Italy and Spain had all recently returned fugitives to Beijing for trial, without problem. Spain alone has returned 218 fugitives, over telecommunications fraud, with the last group of 94 having been surrendered as recently as June.

This time, the EU's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, has described the arrest of the suspects in Hong Kong as "extremely worrying", warning that the EU was "watching closely". If, however, Mogherini wants to watch anything "closely", she should scrutinize what is happening in the EU itself, in France.

Since the "yellow vest" protest movement began in Paris, in November 2018, there have been, as recently reported by the French Mediapart website, 11 deaths, with more than 2,000 people injured, including 95 journalists.

At least 23 demonstrators have also lost their eyesight as a result of police action.

In the first seven months of the yellow vest protests, French police arrested 8,400 protesters, of whom about 2,400 were remanded to custody. On Bastille Day alone (July 14), 157 protesters were arrested. There have been hundreds of prosecutions.

However, much of what has happened in France has been downplayed by the EU, or simply ignored.

Instead of hypocritically lecturing Hong Kong, Mogherini should take a long, hard look at the EU itself. Given its own record of policing demonstrations, the EU is in no position to pass judgment on others. Although it may think it can bully Hong Kong, it must remember that, even in these cynical times, double standards are always incompatible with credibility.

The British people, of course, long ago saw through the EU's hypocrisy, and realized it could not be trusted to protect their interests. They voted in record numbers to quit the bloc in 2016, and everyone in Hong Kong can now see why.

The author is a senior counsel, law professor and criminal justice analyst, and was previously director of public prosecutions for Hong Kong.The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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