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US’ ruthless attack on HK’s NSL serves strategic ends of containing China

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US’ ruthless attack on HK’s NSL serves strategic ends of containing China

When US congressional advisers made morality-coated statements to criticize the National Security Law for Hong Kong (NSL) and called for sanctions on 29 Hong Kong judges tasked with hearing NSL cases, they tried to create a deceptive impression by falsely representing that they are standing on the moral high ground buttressed by the theory of natural duty of justice.

Proponents of this theory believe that there are strong cases for morally justified sanctions because they should assist in the establishment of just arrangements when they do not exist, at least when this can be done with little cost to themselves (John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971)). Since the US government is theoretically democratic, proponents of the above theory argue that the US government should formulate and implement foreign policies to realize the will of the majority of its citizens.

But we are living in an imperfect and bully-dominated world, which is not suitable for proponents of the theory of natural duty of justice to propagate their ideas. The reality is that power politics is driving the US and China toward mistrust, competition and soft confrontation. As explained below, the US Congress has a strong motive to weaken China by playing the“sanctions card” against Hong Kong, particularly its judges and prosecutors.

Behind the facade of high-sounding moral principles, the US has implemented a selected sanctions regime to target only judges of “unfriendly countries”. While the US has turned a blind eye to “show trials” in the courts of its allies, it has paid great attention to courts in countries it considers “unfriendly”. Ebrahim Raisi, a former judge of Iran, was placed under US sanctions for “human rights abuses” in 2019. Later, Raisi secured a landslide victory in Iran’s presidential election in 2021 (Hardline Judge under US Sanctions for Human Rights Abuses Wins Iran Presidential Election, CNBC, June 19, 2021).

Two Iranian judges were also punished by the US Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets for issuing allegedly “cruel sentences” on activists, journalists and religious minorities (press release from the US Department of Treasury, Dec 19, 2019). Judges in Venezuela were also sanctioned by the US in 2017. The selectivity of American intervention has undermined American soft power and dealt a fatal blow to the credibility of the US government.

It’s also worth mentioning that then-US president Donald Trump imposed sanctions on two prosecutors of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in June 2020. The ICC was established by the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The US has never been a party to the Rome Statute. The US has never been a party to the Rome Statute. The prospect of prosecution of US military personnel and agents of the CIA for their alleged criminal acts in Afghanistan triggered a surge of US hostility toward the ICC. In spite of US sanctions, Canada was among 67 countries signing a joint statement reconfirming their unwavering support for the ICC as an independent and impartial judicial institution (Catherine Morris, USA vs the International Criminal Court: A Fraught History in the Quest for International Accountability for Atrocity Crimes, Slaw, May 19, 2021).

Following promulgation of the NSL, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on 11 central government and HKSAR government officials for their involvement in enforcing the NSL. The Hong Kong Autonomy Act was passed unanimously in the US Congress in July 2020 to punish the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government for implementation of the NSL in the city. Later on, the US threatened to impose sanctions on Hong Kong prosecutors who handle national security cases.

The latest move by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) to intimidate Hong Kong’s judges is brazen interference in China’s internal affairs and a blatant act perverting the course of justice.

Indeed, the Biden administration and the US Congress are more concerned with the US’ strategic need to contain and weaken China than with their self-appointed mission to uphold judicial independence in Hong Kong. Undermining Hong Kong’s judicial independence and thus its rule of law by intimidating the city’s judges is part of Washington’s strategy to hurt China. American politicians must have believed that playing the “Hong Kong card” gives the US an extra edge over China.

It comes as no surprise that the CECC has urged the US government to impose sanctions on 29 Hong Kong judges tasked with hearing national security cases and to devise a set of policy tools to counter the “subversion of universal rights” by Beijing in its latest report on the NSL. The report, fraught with disinformation and lies, should be condemned to the fullest for its fabrications. Contrary to the CECC’s allegations, Hong Kong’s judiciary is an independent and impartial institution.

It has caused outrage among the Hong Kong legal community, and rightly so. A Hong Kong judiciary spokesman said attempts to exert pressure on Hong Kong judges are unacceptable, noting that the rule of law and judicial independence in Hong Kong are guaranteed by the Basic Law. As Fu Hualing and Michael Hor have correctly pointed out, the inclusion of human rights provisions in the NSL and especially the reference to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other international rights regimes are significant in signaling a commitment to maintaining the “one country, two systems” policy (Introduction: Re-balancing Freedom and Security in Post-NSL Hong Kong; The National Security Law of Hong Kong: Restoration and Transformation (HKU Press, 2022)).

The CECC’s report was also condemned by the Hong Kong Bar Association and the Law Society. The Bar Association said in its statement, “Attempts by anyone, no matter their location, to interfere with the operation of the independent judiciary must be sternly deplored and condemned.” The Law Society said, “Any attempt to exert pressure by the implementation of sanctions against a judge due to the type of cases that he or she is assigned to handle is an affront to the rule of law and judicial integrity.”

Junius Ho is a Legislative Council member, a solicitor, and a senior strategic development adviser of the Chinese Dream Think Tank. 

Kacee Ting Wong is a barrister, a part-time researcher of Shenzhen University Hong Kong and Macao Basic Law Research Center, and chairman of Chinese Dream Think Tank.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

This article is reproduced by Kwun Media with the consent of China Daily.

Chinese Dream Think Tank is a non-profit Hong Kong-based organization working with skilled volunteers, experts and professionals who are passionate about telling the China story well.

中國夢智庫|美國制裁特區指定國安法官

當美國國會顧問們發表道德式聲明,批評《港版國安法》並呼籲對特區29名指定國安法法官進行制裁時,他(她)們試圖通過一種錯誤方式,先佔領「正義論」高地,再來描繪其具欺騙性無上道德的立場。「正義論」支持者認為,因為人們有責任在公平的社會制度中建立公義制度,在建立的過程中,人們可能會付出一些代價,但有充分的理由為「正義論」的實踐而進行合理制裁(註1)。由於從理論層面美國政府可被視為是一個民主制度,「正義論」的支持者認為,美國政府應制定相關的外交政策來實現大多數美國公民對正義意願的追求。

但是,當前人們生活在一個不完美與充斥着欺凌主導的世界,倡議「正義論」的支持者們不能把上述的正義思想全面推行成為普世價值觀。即使大多數美國選民贊成採取無私心的方式制裁特區,向特區司法機構施加壓力,要求「程序公義」與「實質性權利」可以得到尊重,美國政府對此並沒有太大興趣。現實上,強權政治正將美國與我國關係推向不信任、 互相競爭與軟對抗的局面。筆者將在下文解釋,美國國會有強烈的動機運用「制裁牌」,通過打壓特區法官與主控官們,來進一步削弱我國國力。

忍身在冠冕堂皇的正義道德原則下,美國針對不友好國家的法官實施了多項有選擇性制裁。美國對其盟國在各自本國法庭進行的審判視而不見,比如說在2019年,美國以侵犯人權為由制裁伊朗前強硬派法官易卜拉欣·莱希(Ehrahmin Raisi)。其後,萊西在2021 年伊朗總統選舉中取得壓倒性勝利(註2)。同樣地,美國財政部外國資產控制辦公室以涉嫌對社會運動人士、記者與宗教少數群體判處殘酷判決,制裁兩名伊朗法官。

2017年,美國財政部外國資產控制辦公室也以同樣的方式制裁委內瑞拉的法官們。由此可見,美國選擇性干預他國行為已經嚴重削弱了美國的國家全球軟實力,對美國政府的公信力造成了致命打擊。再來,「國際刑事法院」(ICC)是根據1998年《國際刑事法院羅馬規約》(羅馬規約)設立的(註5)。美國前總統特朗普卻在2020年6月制裁兩名ICC的檢察官。事源美國軍事人員與中央情報局特工因在阿富汗進行不法行為而被ICC起訴,引發美國對ICC的敵對情緒。雖然事已至此,加拿大則加入67個國家,簽署聯合聲明重申她們會堅定不移地支持ICC,ICC是一個獨立與公正的國際司法機構(註4)。大家注意,美國從來都不是《羅馬規約》的締約國。

事實上,拜登政府與美國國會所關心的是如何遏制與削弱我國的戰略需求,並不是抱著無私心方式來維護特區的司法獨立與宣揚正義論。與美國國會論點恰恰相反,特區司法機構是一個獨立與維護公平公正的機構。《港版國安法》頒布後,特朗普政府制裁聲稱打壓特區政治異議人士的十名內地官員與特區本地官員。美國版《香港自治法》(Hong Kong Autonomy Act)於2020年7月獲得美國國會的一致通過(註6),立法目的是懲罰無辜的特區政府。其後,美國還威脅要對特區躡足國家安全案件的主控官實施制裁。「香港牌」的運作似乎讓美國比我國多了幾分優勢。

還有,「美國國會及行政當局中國委員會」(CECC)公開敦促:「美國政府要繼續宣導香港政治犯的權利,並制定和實施強有力的政策工具來對抗中國對普世權利的顛覆。」筆者認為這樣的立場不足為奇。CECC敦促美國政府考慮對29名特區國安案指定法官實施制裁,這個立場應受到大家的譴責(註7)。

最近,特區司法機構發言人表示,試圖向特區法官施加壓力是不可接受的。他補充道,特區的法治與司法獨立受到《基本法》的保障。「中國外交部駐港特派員公署領事部」也譴責了CECC的誹謗式報告。正如傅華伶與何耀明兩位學者正確指出,在《港版國安法》中納入人權條款,特別是提及《公民權利和政治權利國際公約》與其他國際人權制度,這對於表明我方維護「一國兩制」的承諾具有重要意義(詮8)。

大律師公會與律師恊會也同樣表示譴責CECC的報告。根據大律師公會:「任何人,無論位於何處,試圖干涉[特區]獨立司法機構的運作,都必定受到嚴厲譴責和譴責」(註9)。聯合國安理會前主席馬凱碩(Kishore Mahbubani)提醒大家,為保護安全,特區必須積極在區內增強更多的美國存在原素。此外,大家應更主動地教育美國人來瞭解特區到底正在發生什麼事(註10)。

事實與資料來源已核查

註 1: 約翰· 羅爾斯(John Rawls)「正義論」劍橋:哈佛大學出版社 1971年, 第334頁

註 2: Reuters「Hardline Judge under US sanctions for human rights abuses wins Iran presidential election」CNBC 02.12.2021 available at: https://www.cnbc.com/amp/2021/06/19/hardline-judge-under-us-sanctions-wins-iran-presidential-election-.html

註 3: Press Release by the US Department of Treasury 19.12.2019 available at: https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm862

註 4: Catherine Morris「USA vs the International Criminal Court: A fraught history in the quest for international accountability for atrocity crimes」Slaw.ca 05.19.2021 available at: https://www.lrwc.org/usa-vs-the-icc-article/

註 5: 維基百科《國際刑事法院羅馬規約》available at: https://zh.m.wikipedia.org/zh-tw/%E5%9B%BD%E9%99%85%E5%88%91%E4%BA%8B%E6%B3%95%E9%99%A2%E7%BD%97%E9%A9%AC%E8%A7%84%E7%BA%A6

註 6: 維基百科「美國版香港自治法」available at: https://zh.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E9%A6%99%E6%B8%AF%E8%87%AA%E6%B2%BB%E6%B3%95

註 7: CECC「One City, Two Legal Systems: Hong Kong Judges’ Role in Rights Violations Under the National Security Law」May 2023 available at: https://www.cecc.gov/sites/chinacommission.house.gov/files/documents/CECC%20Staff%20Report%20May%202023-NSL%20Judges.pdf

註 8: 傅華伶與何耀明「後香港國安法的自由與安全再平衡」載於傅華伶與何耀明(主輯)「香港國安法:社會重建與變革」香港大學出版社 2022 第13頁

註 9: Lilian Cheng「Hong Kong’s judiciary condemns call by US panel for sanctions on 29 judges who hear national security cases」SCMP 12.05.2023 available at: https://amp.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/3220402/hong-kongs-judiciary-condemns-call-us-panel-sanctions-29-judges-who-hear-national-security-cases

註 10: Cannix Yau「US-China war unlikely, but Hong Kong should be prepared to be ‘sandwiched’, ‘kicked around like a football’ for next decade amid tensions」SCMP 13.05.2023 available at: https://amp.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/3220433/us-china-war-unlikely-hong-kong-should-be-prepared-be-sandwiched-kicked-around-football-next-decade、

文:何君堯(現任香港立法會議員、國際公益法律服務協會創辦人、《中國夢智庫》高級戰略發展顧問)

文:丁煌(深圳大學基本法研究中心兼職研究員、經民聯港島支部主席、《中國夢智庫》主席
、國際公益法律服務協會顧問委員會成員、香港法學交流基金會副主席、全國港澳研究會會員)

《中國夢智庫》是一間扎根特區的非牟利團體;與心存熱誠的資深義工、專家與職業專業人士們合作,攜手「說好中國故事」。

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