ROLE Essay Competition
Law is an important system of rules created by civilised societies to establish order, providing us a basis for reasoning and differentiating us from animals. It is the utmost essential value of law that everyone, no matter government heads or commoners, abide by the same set of rules. Article 25 of the Basic Law stipulates that “All Hong Kong residents shall be equal before the law.” It is stated that all independents should be treated justly and indifferently, despite one’s social status, gender or religion etc. This implies that no judgment will be made with prejudice and the same legal standards will be applied consistently. As the Chinese saying goes, “If the Emperor violates the law, he must be punished like an ordinary person”. This principle is crucial in establishing clear and precise standard rules. It upholds the value and operation of “rule of law” in Hong Kong, which connotes that judicial decisions are made independently, and all residents can be rest assured that there is no undue influence in the final results. This prevents tyrannical government from intervening the judicial system, as political powers of oneself cannot affect the decision of the court. This is a fundamental principle that every civilised country must observe for it to prosper, advance and integrate with the world.
The Article protects all residents from unequal judicial judgements. One’s wealth or status will exert no influence on court decisions. The Article enables both the impoverished and wealthy, educated and illiterate, men and women to be treated with the same standards fairly and free of any sort of discrimination. Apart from Hong Kong residents, everyone in Hong Kong will be covered by this important principle. This is one of the most important offers from Hong Kong that makes the place an international centre of activities. People are comfortable to come to Hong Kong knowing for sure that they will be treated fairly and independently before the legal system should any unforeseen situation arise.
In practice, Article 25 enables all Hong Kong residents to have the right to seek justice. If one desires/needs a legal representation but is unable to afford the legal expenses due to financial difficulty, the Legal Aid Department will provide the necessary legal aid in Magistrates’ Court, whereas one may apply for legal representations through the Duty Lawyer Service for other courts. The two abovementioned departments demonstrate that the Basic Law allows everyone to be equal before the law, in terms of having their fundamental human rights to defend themselves even if they are financially less capable. This is one of the most basic Human Rights that one shall be allowed and be able to defend oneself as enshrined in the Basic Human Rights Convention.
The enforcement of Article 25 can be seen in the case of Henry Tang illegal basement controversy. Despite Tang’s status as one of the 2012 Chief Executive election candidates, his political influence and family wealth and connections both locally and overseas, he was still summoned before the court to answer the construction of his basement without approval from the Buildings Department in his residence in Kowloon Tong. The basement was eventually declared illegal and Mr. Tang had to demolish the unauthorised building works and reinstated the area. The judgment was not altered nor affected by the fact that he was politically influential, or he might even be the next Chief Executive Hong Kong. The case manifests the principle and practice of Article 25, where no one can be treated leniently or differently based on one’s position. Everybody is equal before the law.
If there is no equality before the law, the Basic Law will just be a set of rules without actual concrete effect. Anyone can interpret the law with their own understanding and affect the judiciary by their wealth, social status or other external factors. Law will then only exist in name. There will be no explicit rules for citizens to follow: the wealthy can escape from punishment because of their prosperity, political figures can abuse their power to alter legal judgments. The foundation of the belief of “rule of law” will be demolished, where no one has to abide by the law and maintains one’s behavior. Without the equality before the law, it makes us humans no more superior than other animals or any uncivilized society.
In conclusion, Article 25 of the Basic Law not only provides all Hong Kong residents as well as foreigners in the territory with the right to equality. The Article also ensures the principle of “rule of law” in Hong Kong, where the law is enforced equally upon everybody in Hong Kong. It consolidates the belief and basic principle of protecting fundamental human right and how the Basic Law can maintain social order and conduct.