China may have cancelled direct elections in Hong Kong, but the former British colony is now facing another crucial test of its ability to govern its own affairs without interference from Beijing. As the UK's Press Association reported on Thursday:
Hong Kong’s top court today overturned criminal convictions against eight followers of the Falun Gong spiritual group accused of assaulting and obstructing police in a 2002 protest, in a case seen as a key test of judicial independence under Chinese rule.Beijing considers Falun Gong an evil cult that threatens the very fabric of society, and its protests are banned on the mainland. However, they are not banned in Hong Kong. The Falun Gong members in question were convicted of convicted of assaulting and obstructing police officers, by resisting the officers' attempts to arrest them for protesting legally.
“The freedom to demonstrate peacefully is a constitutional right,” a summary of the court ruling said.
The decision may bolster confidence in Hong Kong’s legal system, which has faced criticism in recent weeks that judicial independence is being eroded by meddling from Beijing.
The Hong Kong court overturned their convictions, but it may not have the final say in the matter:
Today’s ruling didn’t ease the worries of Law Yuk-kai, director of the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor. Law said Hong Kong’s judicial system is still undermined by China’s power to issue rulings that pre-empt decisions by local courts.It seems to me that Beijing's current course of delaying and undermining self-government in Hong Kong requires it to take action against this court decision as well. It wouldn't do to set a precedent that Hong Kong's courts can, well, set precedents.