監製：HA Kwai Cheong
Every word in provisions of law is laid down on paper and made open to the public so that everything is crystal clear, thus safeguarding the rights of members of the public and ensuring that they will not break the law because of incomprehensibility.
However, provisions are words in essence. With changes in society and differences across cultures, the same words can be interpreted in different ways.
Having been under British rule in the colonial era and returned to China’s sovereignty, all provisions of law in Hong Kong, a small port, had to be made bilingual from the original English version. Imagine how you would express in Chinese the meaning of “addition”, which concerns the extra vending space of hawkers. Moreover, what is the official Chinese term for “easement”, which underlines the right that allows you to pass by your neighbour’s property every day?
This kind of conflict is not unique in bilingual provisions. Ambiguity is in fact rampant even in the Chinese provisions alone. In a real case, for example, a family engaged representative visiting service for their imprisoned family member. Yet, the Government believed that the law merely provided for visits by relatives and friends of a prisoner. If a person was not a personal acquaintance known to the prisoner, they were not friends. After 7 years of legal proceedings, the judge at the Court of Final Appeal returned to the basics and analysed the intention behind the provisions in question.
Provisions in law are formed by words, the presence of which inevitably gives rise to ambiguity. When we encounter ambiguity and choose to take the matter to court, effort and time have to be put in, so as to eliminate ambiguity. Meanwhile, however, the truth will be clearer upon presentation of arguments.
The existence of a civil justice system enables individuals and corporations to effectively enforce their legal rights. If the system becomes inaccessible to segments of society, whether because of expense, incomprehensibility or otherwise, will people be deprived of justice?
After the founder had passed away, Wo Him Tong was inherited by a pair of brothers. However, the brothers held vastly different views on how the shop should be operated. Since the brothers failed to reach consensus, Leung-him paid his brother a sum of money for him to start a new business and keep aloof from the operation of Wo Him Tong. Several years have passed and Wo Him Tong has been closed. Leung-wo files a lawsuit in court claiming half of the proceeds from selling the property;
Mrs CHENG’s baby suffered from cerebral palsy and had inflexible limbs due to obstructed labour when she gave birth by natural childbirth. Feeling deeply aggrieved, Mrs CHENG decides to take legal actions and claim compensation from Doctor MAK. The two parties find Doctor SUNG to be their mediator, who will try to help them reach a settlement agreement through the eyes of a third party.
John REAR, an academic staff who taught public law, had no experience in teaching and was illiterate in Chinese. Nevertheless, he deliberately learnt how to write “rule of law” in Chinese and wrote it on the blackboard, hoping that his students would bear it in mind. In fact, before starting his lecture, John REAR had already engaged in a polemic with the British Hong Kong Government as a legislative amendment had led to a case of making judgment before trial. He had even been targeted at because of this incident, and he nearly failed in organising his law programme. Fortunately, all problems were solved in the end. John REAR’s law programme was launched successfully, while the seed was sown for the future Faculty of Law of The University of Hong Kong.
Half a century has passed, and the small seed has grown into a big tree. People and things have been constantly changing throughout the journey. However, the only thing that remains unchanged is that John REAR, a founder member of the Faculty of Law, has all along treasured the rule of law for 50 years, and he hopes that his students will treasure it like he does.