.

  • Written by John Garrick, University Fellow in Law, Charles Darwin University
A Hong Kong pro-democracy protester on 11 August 2019. Miguel Candela/EPA

What’s happening in Hong Kong right now has direct bearings on Australia. It goes to an issue crucial to our position in a world economic order that is likely to be shaped less by the United States, still our most important ally, and more by China, our ever more valuable trading partner.

At the heart of the Hong Kong protests is the same issue that causes concern about China’s ambitions from the South China Sea to the South Pacific. It’s about the Chinese government’s commitment to an idiosyncratic idea of the rule of law.

Hong Kong has something like a constitution or bill of rights, called the Hong Kong Basic Law. It’s a legacy of British colonial rule, which the Chinese government agreed to preserve because there was value in keeping Hong Kong the prosperous city it had become.

China has a very different approach to law. Its constitution can and has been changed at the whim of the ruling party. There is no separation of powers, and no such thing as an independent judiciary.

Removing the judicial firewall

The trigger for the Hong Kong protests was a proposed law enabling China to extradite Hong Kong residents and visitors. Protesters foresaw democrats and dissidents disappearing into China’s prison system. The judicial “firewall” giving meaning to the notion of “one country, two systems” would be fatally undermined. Hong Kong’s distinctive culture and economy would be destroyed with it.


Read more: The Hong Kong protesters have turned militant and more strategic – and this unnerves Beijing


The idea of law as an instrument of the Chinese Communist Party shapes the Chinese government’s domestic policies, and also its approach to international law. It respects international conventions when it has to, and when it is in the national interest. But there’s a point where it is quite willing to thumb its nose at the whole idea.

This willingness has stiffened under the leadership of Xi Jinping, who has reaffirmed in word and deed that the Chinese Communist Party “is the highest force for political leadership”.

Law of the sea

An example is China’s view of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in its dispute with the Philippines over island territory in the South China Sea.

In 2016 a UN tribunal unanimously found in favour of the Philippines. China refused to accept the verdict. It declared it “would continue to abide by international law and basic norms governing international relations”, but also added:

The Chinese government reiterates that, regarding territorial issues and maritime delimitation disputes, China does not accept any means of third party dispute settlement or any solution imposed on China.

It therefore continues to claim the South China Sea as an “inalienable” part of its territory. In direct defiance of the ruling, it has also built artificial islands within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, and built military bases on those islands.

Wider implications

China’s official narrative is that it doesn’t reject international law per se, but simply wants law that accommodates “Chinese characteristics”, including China’s preference for resolving disputes one on one.


Read more: Australians' feelings sour towards China: Lowy poll


Given that the point of establishing the United Nations and other multilateral institutions such as the World Trade Organisation was to replace “might makes right” with something like an international rule of law, this is likely to prove cold comfort for smaller nations.

As Xi told the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in 2017:

  • the overall goal of “comprehensively advancing law-based governance” is to “establish a system of socialist rule of law with Chinese characteristics and build a country of socialist rule of law”

  • “major country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics aims to foster a new type of international relations and build a community with a shared future for mankind”

  • the defining feature of “socialism with Chinese characteristics” is “the leadership of the Communist Party of China”.


Read more: Australia has too few home-grown experts on the Chinese Communist Party. That's a problem


Beijing’s view of the rule of law is thus very different to what most of the rest of the world understands. The potential consequences are not lost on the citizens of Hong Kong, and they should not be lost on China’s neighbours and trading partners.

John Garrick does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Authors: John Garrick, University Fellow in Law, Charles Darwin University

Read more http://theconversation.com/hong-kong-fears-losing-its-rule-of-law-the-rest-of-the-world-should-worry-too-121807

Private health premium increases might be the lowest in years, but that doesn't mean they're justified

Those facing large price increases might drop or downgrade their cover. Wayhome studio/ShutterstockEvery year private health insurers raise premiums and every year we rue the hit to our hip pocket. Th...

Nathan Kettlewell, Chancellor's Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Economics Discipline Group, University of Technology Sydney - avatar Nathan Kettlewell, Chancellor's Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Economics Discipline Group, University of Technology Sydney

So your kid's finished their first year of school. Here's what they should have learnt

Every child progresses at different levels, just like everyone learns to talk and walk at different times. from shutterstock.comIt’s the end of the first year of school for many children and pro...

Jenny Johnston, Lecturer in Primary Education, Southern Cross University - avatar Jenny Johnston, Lecturer in Primary Education, Southern Cross University

5 human rights issues that defined 2019

One of this year’s most refreshing developments was the youth-led action on climate change. AAP Image/Dan PeledAs we approach the last days of the decade, it’s important to reflect on the ...

Elaine Pearson, Adjunct Lecturer in Law, UNSW - avatar Elaine Pearson, Adjunct Lecturer in Law, UNSW

As heat strikes, here's one way to help fight disease-carrying and nuisance mosquitoes

Although yellow fever does not currently exist in Australia, the species Aedes aegypti - which can transmit the disease - is found widely across northern Queensland. The virus remains a global health ...

Cameron Webb, Clinical Lecturer and Principal Hospital Scientist, University of Sydney - avatar Cameron Webb, Clinical Lecturer and Principal Hospital Scientist, University of Sydney

Don't blame the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. It's climate and economic change driving farmers out

For the thousand or so farmers in Canberra in the past week venting their anger at the federal government, it’s the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to blame for destroying their livelihoods and forcin...

Sarah Ann Wheeler, Professor in Water Economics, University of Adelaide - avatar Sarah Ann Wheeler, Professor in Water Economics, University of Adelaide

Expect family talks about climate change this Christmas? Take tips from Greta Thunberg

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg is a master of staying on topic. AAP/Julian SmithAs bushfires rage and our cities lie shrouded in smoke, climate change is shaping as a likely topic of conversa...

Peter Ellerton, Lecturer in Critical Thinking; Curriculum Director, UQ Critical Thinking Project, The University of Queensland - avatar Peter Ellerton, Lecturer in Critical Thinking; Curriculum Director, UQ Critical Thinking Project, The University of Queensland

Climate explained: seven reasons to be wary of waste-to-energy proposals

Many developed countries already have significant waste-to-energy operations and therefore less material going to landfill. CC BY-ND Climate Explained is a collaboration bet...

Jeff Seadon, Senior Lecturer, Auckland University of Technology - avatar Jeff Seadon, Senior Lecturer, Auckland University of Technology

In our time of climate crisis, the exhibition Water is a subtly crafted plea

Olafur Eliasson, Denmark, b.1967 Riverbed 2014 (detail) Site specific installation. Pictured: The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, DenmarkCourtesy of the artist; neugerriemschneider, B...

Chari Larsson, Lecturer of art history, Griffith University - avatar Chari Larsson, Lecturer of art history, Griffith University

We're still fighting city freeways after half a century

Demonstrations against freeway construction in Melbourne included a street barricade erected in protest at the F19 extension of the Eastern Freeway. Barricade! – the resident fight against the...

Andrew Butt, Associate Professor in Sustainability and Urban Planning, RMIT University - avatar Andrew Butt, Associate Professor in Sustainability and Urban Planning, RMIT University

Why were tourists allowed on White Island?

The volcanic alert level on Whakaari/White Island remains at three, one rung higher than it was when the eruption took place. AAP/GNS Science, CC BY-NDThe official death toll remains at six, and eight...

Michael Lueck, Professor of Tourism, Auckland University of Technology - avatar Michael Lueck, Professor of Tourism, Auckland University of Technology

Curious Kids: why do we get bruises?

From red, to blue, to purple, to yellow and even green – why do our bruises change colour? From shutterstock.com How and why do we get bruises? – Francesca, aged 8. Hi Francesca, thank...

Abishek Santhakumar, Senior Lecturer in Haematology, Charles Sturt University - avatar Abishek Santhakumar, Senior Lecturer in Haematology, Charles Sturt University

To save koalas from fire, we need to start putting their genetic material on ice

Over the coming months, koalas will depend on wildlife hospitals to recover from the effects of unprecedented bushfires. Lachlan G. Howell , Author providedThousands of koalas may have died in fires ...

Ryan R. Witt, Conjoint Lecturer | Conservation Biology Research Group, University of Newcastle - avatar Ryan R. Witt, Conjoint Lecturer | Conservation Biology Research Group, University of Newcastle

(Almost) everyone's a winner? Art is meant to break rules and prizes must adapt

British artists (L-R) Oscar Murillo, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock and Tai Shani celebrate after being announced as the joint winners of Turner Prize 2019. Vickie Flores/EPALast week Britain&rsq...

Lachlan Warner, Australian Catholic University - avatar Lachlan Warner, Australian Catholic University

Unlawful metadata access is easy when we’re flogging a dead law

After watching this year’s media raids and the prosecution of lawyers and whistleblowers, it’s not hard to see why Australians wonder about excessive police power and dwindling journalisti...

Genna Churches, PhD Candidate, UNSW - avatar Genna Churches, PhD Candidate, UNSW

Why the profit motive fails in education

The disastrous experience of vocational education and training in Australia holds many lessons about trying to fit education into a for-profit market model. www.shutterstock.comThe Morrison government...

John Quiggin, Professor, School of Economics, The University of Queensland - avatar John Quiggin, Professor, School of Economics, The University of Queensland

The X17 factor: a particle new to physics might solve the dark matter mystery

Anomalies in nuclear physics experiments may show signs of a new force. ShutterstockA team of scientists in Hungary recently published a paper that hints at the existence of a previously unknown subat...

Celine Boehm, Head of School for Physics, University of Sydney - avatar Celine Boehm, Head of School for Physics, University of Sydney

The water crisis has plunged the Nats into a world of pain. But they reap what they sow

Angry farmers are pressuring the Nationals to tear up the Murray Darling Basin Plan. Lukas Coch/AAPWhen farmers descended on Parliament House in Canberra this month to demand the Murray Darling Basin ...

Daniel Connell, Research Fellow, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University - avatar Daniel Connell, Research Fellow, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

8 Factors to Consider When Buying a Standby Diesel Generator

Diesel generators play a vital role in different home and business applications. However, they are commonly known for providing backup power, especially during the mains outage or blackout. Though...

News Company - avatar News Company

2019 was a year of global unrest, spurred by anger at rising inequality – and 2020 is likely to be worse

2019 may well go down as the most disrupted year in global politics since the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 and the subsequent implosion of the former Soviet Union. However, the likelihood is that ...

Tony Walker, Adjunct Professor, School of Communications, La Trobe University - avatar Tony Walker, Adjunct Professor, School of Communications, La Trobe University

Sick and Tired of Your Dead End Job? Try Teaching!

Tired of the same old grind at the office? Want an opportunity to impact lives both in your community and around the world? Do you love to travel and have new experiences? Teaching English is the perfect job for you! All you need is a willingness to ...

News Company - avatar News Company

The Impact of an Aging Population in Australia

There’s an issue on the horizon that Australia needs to prepare for. The portion of elderly citizens that make up the country’s overall population is increasing, and we might not have the infrastructure in place to support this. Australians h...

News Company - avatar News Company

LifeStyle

Latest Wednesday Lotto Results

Wednesday Lotto draw 3917 Lucky numbers for this draw were 43 followed by 25. The rest of the...

Ways Love and Relationships Benefit Body and Mind

Being in a happy relationship is great. You always have someone to greet you when you come home ...

The Importance of Smiling: How You Can Smile More

Happiness is something we all strive for and is often just out of reach. Of course, it’s impos...

5 Things to Do On Your Wedding Morning

After months of meticulous planning, wedding mornings usually find the bride excited but stressed ...