British barrister Grenville Cross receives an interview with Xinhua in south China's Hong Kong, April 10, 2021. (Xinhua/Wu Xiaochu)
HONG KONG, April 12 (Xinhua) -- In Hong Kong, few expatriates know the global financial hub better than British barrister Grenville Cross.
A career prosecutor, Cross started working in Hong Kong in 1978 and served as Hong Kong's first Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) after its return to the motherland. He witnessed how Hong Kong maintained judiciary independence and made headway in democracy since 1997 and also experienced the disturbances caused by anti-China forces.
Cross stood out against Western slanders on Hong Kong. "As a false narrative is being spread, that is being done in order to try to harm Hong Kong, which I won't sit back and tolerate," he told Xinhua in an interview.
CRITICISM FOR CRITICISM'S SAKE
"This is mindless criticism, which is criticism for criticism's sake and takes no account of the actual situation," Cross said when talking about recent false allegations from the West against the improvement to Hong Kong's electoral system.
Cross pointed out that the move to improve the electoral system has become "obviously necessary," as Hong Kong has been recovering from the social unrest in 2019 and battling plots of anti-China forces to take control of the governance of Hong Kong through electoral loopholes.
Those activities would be "intolerable in any country, in any part of the world" and the people involved "can have no role in Hong Kong's governance," he said.
"Patriots administering Hong Kong" is hardly uncommon, he said. "This is the case in countries around the world. People have to have the best interests of their country at heart. Otherwise, there's no future for them in democratic politics. And so why should Hong Kong be any different?" he said.
As to foreign interference, Cross believes that by jeopardizing Hong Kong's stability and prosperity and undermining "one country, two systems," external forces attempted to contain China's development. "This is why they've adopted all sorts of measures to try and harm Hong Kong."
"It's very important, I think, for people like me, instead of hiding under the table, which many people do, to speak out, let the world know what is actually going on here," he said.
HUGE STRIDES IN DEMOCRATIZATION
As a prosecutor working in Hong Kong under both the British colonial rule and "one country, two systems," Cross said "huge strides have been made" in democratization since China resumed the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong in 1997.
"In 1984, when the Sino-British Joint Declaration was signed, there was no democracy at all in Hong Kong," Cross said, citing that there were only official members and unofficial members appointed by the governor of Hong Kong in the local legislature. "That all changed radically after 1997 and the process of gradual democratization under the Basic Law was embarked upon."
However, Hong Kong's democratization was repeatedly sabotaged by anti-China forces who ironically claimed to advocate democracy.
Because the opposition camp blocked the government proposal in 2015, the fifth-term chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) could not be elected by universal suffrage two years later, Cross said.
It was those rioters trashing shops and beating innocent people on streets and some lawmakers supporting violence and even taking part in violent activities themselves that sabotaged Hong Kong's democratization, Cross said. "They show themselves to be wholly unsuited to be representatives in a democratic society."
Cross disagrees that different political views will be suppressed under the improved electoral system.
"It recognizes political pluralism. It realizes that people of different political persuasions still have a role to play in Hong Kong," provided only that they uphold the Constitution and the HKSAR Basic Law, work for the best interests of Hong Kong and do not intend to weaken "one country, two systems," he said.
After the electoral system is improved, Hong Kong's democratic process may continue and the global financial hub will see a rosy future, he said.
JUDICIARY AS STRONG, VIBRANT AS EVER
Looking back at 1997, Cross said he was actually surprised at his appointment as the DPP of the Department of Justice.
"Many people thought that there would be a very limited role for foreigners in senior positions inside the government. But a completely different view is taken," he said. "If you were committed to Hong Kong... and really concerned for its welfare, then even after 1997, there was still a role for you to play, which was a very open-minded way of approaching things."
Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal currently has 14 overseas non-permanent judges and the police force also has senior officers who are British nationals.
Cross worked as the DPP for over 12 years. "Hong Kong's judiciary independence and indeed its prosecutorial independence has remained intact," he said.
"There was no interference at all on me to make decisions in one way or another. What I did was exactly what I used to do prior to 1997, which was to look at the evidence in a particular case, to apply the traditional tests, which are used throughout the common law world."
The seasoned legal practitioner stressed that Hong Kong's judiciary remains "as strong and as vibrant as ever."
In fact, it is even more independent than under the British colonial rule.
Before 1997, the judiciary independence was only a matter of convention and was not written down in law, but after Hong Kong's return to the motherland the spirit is enshrined in the HKSAR Basic Law in black and white, Cross said.
Besides, as the Basic Law stipulates that the HKSAR shall be vested with independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication, Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal was established in 1997, replacing the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London as the highest appellate court in Hong Kong.
Over 40 years ago, Cross was only a junior prosecutor in London when he got an opportunity to work in Hong Kong for a short-term job. But the broader room for his career in Hong Kong and the entrepreneurial spirit of the people here prompted him to stay.
Cross has never regretted the decision. "The entire country, I think, wants Hong Kong to succeed, which is why its institutions are respected." Enditem