Congressional reports are further evidence of moral decadence in US politics

In a brazen attempt to interfere with the rule of law, Washington announced in September 2020 sanctions against the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, after the ICC launched an investigation into crimes allegedly committed by American soldiers in Afghanistan. During his briefing on sanctions against Bensouda, then US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made it clear that any individual, or entity, who materially assisted her also would be subject to sanctions.

The sanctions came after then US president Donald Trump issued in June the same year an executive order authorizing sanctions against “officials, employees and agents, as well as members of their immediate families” working at the ICC. That Washington blatantly intimidated an international court operating under the mandate of the United Nations simply because the court had opened an investigation into alleged crimes in fulfilling its lawful duty shocked the world and drew immediate criticism worldwide. 

Washington paid no attention to the global outrage over its intimidation of ICC. It resisted demands for the withdrawal of the sanctions slapped on Bensouda until April 2021, when she was no longer ICC prosecutor.

Washington politicians’ contempt for the global rule of law, as well as the US’ ever readiness to sabotage the international institutions for its own political ends, once again were glaringly manifested by the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China’s (CECC) latest move to intimidate Hong Kong’s Judiciary and undermine the city’s judicial independence and rule of law.

In a fabricated “report” on the National Security Law (NSL) implemented in Hong Kong, released on Friday, the CECC called for US government sanctions on all 29 Hong Kong judges tasked with hearing national security cases.

Washington’s contempt for international institutions is evidenced also in its decisions to arbitrarily renege on America’s WTO obligations as well as on its international deals, such as the Paris Agreement and the “Iran nuclear deal”. All of these have helped lay bare the essence of Washington’s much hyped “rules-based international order”: It must prioritize American interests, otherwise it is nonexistent. So much for Washington’s “rules-based international order” rhetoric.

That all 29 judges in the pool of judges tasked to hear the NSL cases, including Hong Kong’s chief justice Andrew Cheung Kui-nung, are targeted by the American politicians speaks volumes about their abhorrence of the NSL, despite the fact that it is not much different from similar laws enforced in many countries, except that it is much less draconian. This can only be explained by Washington’s realization of how effective the NSL has been at keeping the US pawns in Hong Kong at bay since its enactment in June 2020, and how desperate Washington politicians are to hurt China in the pursuit of their geopolitical ends.

ALSO READ: Smearing of Hong Kong judges slammed

The CECC report claims that the judges presiding over national security cases have weakened Hong Kong’s “once venerated rule of law and independent judiciary and arbitrarily jailing over a thousand political prisoners”.

These are outright lies. The NSL only targets a very small minority of people who commit acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign or external forces, endangering national security. Hong Kong’s Secretary for Justice Paul Lam Ting-kwok confirmed last month in a radio program that there had been only around 20 people convicted under the NSL since the implementation of the law. Washington’s ruthless pursuit of or tough actions against Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange — individuals accused by the authorities of having hurt US national interests — does not square with American politicians’ abhorrence of the Hong Kong’s security law.

The CECC report also claims the lack of transparency has diminished the public’s trust in the legal system and weakened judicial independence. The truth is, the rule of law and judicial independence remain alive and well in Hong Kong.

A recent survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong (Amcham) indicated: 73 percent of its members have confidence in Hong Kong’s rule of law; more than 60 percent of the respondents said the NSL has had no negative impact on their companies’ operations in the city. And a couple of months earlier, a video featuring the chairpersons of business chambers of the United Kingdom, Australia, America, Singapore, Japan, India and France in Hong Kong was launched as part of the “Hello Hong Kong” promotional campaign, highlighting the benefits of doing businesses in Hong Kong. The chamber representatives described Hong Kong as “safe” and “incredibly attractive” in the video, with Anne Kerr, chair of the British chamber in Hong Kong, saying that the city has a “sound legal system”. On Jan 19, when delivering his inaugural remarks, AmCham’s new Chairman Geoffrey Siebengartner made positive comments on Hong Kong, saying: “To support the economy and attract businesses and talent, AmCham is of the view that the Hong Kong government must communicate to foreign investors and the business community that Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy remains vibrant and intact…”

Such firsthand observations about Hong Kong’s actual situation must have been tapped and reflected in the World Justice Project’s appraisal of the robustness of the city’s rule of law: Hong Kong ranked 22nd among 140 countries and jurisdictions in the WJP Rule of Law Index 2022, ahead of the US (26th).

READ MORE: NSL: HK to deal with overseas lawyers' role 'case-by-case' basis

Playing the US executive’s sidekick in an all-out geopolitical offensive against China, the CECC has been busy churning out reports to smear Hong Kong, with some specifically subjecting the city’s prosecutors and judges to intimidation in turns. The latest report is just another move intended to vilify China and the Hong Kong SAR in particular, and undermine the reputation of the city’s judiciary and thus its global competitiveness.

The author is a current affairs commentator.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.