Chinese whispers get a stormy broadcast in Hong Kong

STEPHEN VINES

Hong Kong

Chief Justice Sir Ti Liang Yang thought his secret was safe when he told a senior Chinese official that the Bill of Rights, the centrepiece of the government's civil rights programme, undermined the legal system. However, the official decided to go public on what he heard.

Like many in the colonial administration, Sir Ti Liang has been doing his best to get to know the new masters. He has been so successful that many believe he has emerged as a leading contender for Chief Executive of the Hong Kong government when China resumes sovereignty in 1997.

However, the studiously non-controversial Chief Justice appears to have underestimated just how difficult it is to ride two horses. The Chinese horse is quite prepared to trot along until it hits an obstacle; then it does what needs to done to get round it even if this means throwing the rider.

Sir Ti Liang was thrown by Zhang Junsheng, the ever-smiling chief spokesman and vice-director of the New China News Agency in Hong Kong, which serves as Peking's de facto embassy. Mr Zhang is also spearheading the drive to get the Bill of Rights watered down.

Local opposition to watering down the Bill is strong and when the Chief Justice gave the smallest hint of criticism of China's position, saying that maybe the new government could make a decision on the Bill, rather than rushing into hasty action, Mr Zhang showed no compunction in disclosing a conversation with Sir Ti Liang.

The Chief Justice said if he had known his views "would be unveiled in public, I would have chosen my words more carefully and done some research before making them".

He did not, however, deny making the remarks and confined any reservations he had about criticising the policies of his current bosses by saying: "in future, I'll not talk too much, even to my friends".

Yesterday the Chief Justice went to a meeting with Mrs Anson Chan, the Chief Secretary, which she described as a routine discussion. He then promised to put down on paper his views about the Bill of Rights.

The Governor, Chris Patten, has decided to say nothing. The feeling in government circles is that Sir Ti Liang has dug himself in a hole and that he will have to extricate himself.

Meanwhile, another High Court judge, Benjamin Liu, told the Peking-controlled Wen Wei Po newspaper that China was only being practical in wanting to curb the Bill of Rights. Other civil servants may well join Sir Ti Liang in telling Chinese officials about misgivings over aspects of policy which China does not like. However, they do not expect these views to reach the public domain.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss