Separation of Powers Does Not Exist And Not to Be Included in Textbooks, Says Kevin Yeung

PTU News Reporter

PTU: Relevant Content Should Not Be Deleted

The Education Bureau introduced ‘professional consultation’ for Liberal Studies textbooks on a ‘voluntary’ basis for publishers this year. Audited textbooks have been excessively amended. Among the many changes was the controversial deletion of content related to the separation of powers, which made many question whether the change was driven by political motives. Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung said in response to media that there was no separation of powers in Hong Kong and that must be clarified in textbooks. Chief Executive Carrie Lam later reiterated publicly that there was  no separation of powers in Hong Kong’s political system. PTU Vice-President and Liberal Studies teacher Tin Fong-Chak said separation of powers is common sense for Hongkongers and relevant content should not be removed from textbooks.

No Seperation of Powers Before And After Handover, Says Kevin Yeung

Kevin Yeung said there had never been separation of powers in Hong Kong. He said there was no separation of power in both systems before and after 1997 and this is a fact that must be made clear in textbooks. He also said that textbooks must be based on the content of the Basic Law and that Hong Kong’s political system is executive-led and should not be explained as separation of powers. Carrie Lam responded to the media’s questions on the following day, reiterating there was no separation of powers in Hong Kong. She said misunderstanding was likely caused by the lack of promotion and education or intentional misleading narratives in order to create conflicts, both of which would be rectified by the government in the future.

Tin Fong-Chak: Relevant Content Should Not Be Removed But Discussed

Yeung and Lam’s statements were both extremely controversial. PTU Vice-President Tin Fong-Chak said separation of powers was common sense in Hong Kong. He said that many principal officials had stated that separation of powers was practised in Hong Kong, including Rimsky Yuen, Secretary for Justice at the time, when he responded to questions in July 2014 saying Hong Kong was a jurisdiction that practised separation of powers. Stephen Lam, the then-Secretary for Consitutional and Mainland Affairs, said in LegCo in 2003 that separation of powers existed in Hong Kong. Media found in research that it was stated as early as 1997 in the handover ceremony’s news archive that Hong Kong’s political system was established based on the principle of separation of powers with an executive-led administration. Tin said the purpose of the Chief Executive and principal officials’ high-profile override of the previous narrative was to align with Beijing’s latest narrative, while the amendments of textbooks aimed at re-educating the younger generation on the Basic Law and to make them accept there was no separation of powers in Hong Kong. He objected to the Education Bureau’s proposal to remove textbook content related to separation of powers on the ground that, as opposed to removing related content based on the government’s denial of separation of powers, whether there was separation of powers in Hong Kong should be discussed in textbooks, where students form rational analysis based on the Basic Law’s Articles, comparison with other countries, and the opinions of different stakeholders.

Judicial Sector Repeatedly Emphasises Separation of Powers

Separation of powers was mentioned in many verdicts in Hong Kong Courts. For example, in 2002, Justice Michael Hartmann stated in his judgment that Hong Kong’s political system was based on separation of powers. Chief Justice of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal Geoffrey Ma said in his speech at the Ceremonial Opening of the Legal Year 2014 that ‘Basic Law sets out clearly the principle of the separation of powers between the legislature, the executive and the judiciary, and in quite specific terms, the different roles of the three institutions’, which is in perfect alignment with the principle of separation of powers.

The Hong Kong Bar Association released a statement after Yeung and Lam’s denial of separation of powers, stating their remarks ‘depart from the authoritative judicial decisions on the structure of the HKSAR Government, which form part of the law of Hong Kong’. The Association said that ‘the Government frequently relies on the separate functions of the executive, the legislature and the judiciary when defending the legality of executive action’, particularly in judicial review. Former Dean of the Faculty of Law of the University of Hong Kong Johannes Chan pointed out that there were judgments in Hong Kong Courts that stated the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary all held power of their own and served to oversee one another. He criticsed Lam’s confusion of concepts.