Hong Kong: Got back in the saddle this morning, with some early morning climbing up Mt Davis Path before heading to the High Court in Admiralty for a front row seat to witness the rule of law in action. I was summoned to jury duty. After deferring my civic duty for almost two years the Court demanded I present myself this morning, and so I did.
I showed up to the High Court, along with about 35 other Hong Kongers, at 9.40 “hour in the forenoon.” I was the only Caucasian in the mix. We had to watch a video about jury duty before proceeding to the courtrooms. Jury selection took place for two trials: one for drug trafficking, the other for rape. Serious stuff.
Jury selection in Hong Kong is pretty unscientific. Names are drawn out of a large white box to form a seven person jury. I was quite anxious as each name was pulled out of the box for the drug trafficking case, which is expected to last until Friday and the trial is conducted in English.
Hong Kong’s legal system is perhaps the best legacy of Britain’s rule. But the Queen’s English, wigs and robes seem antiquated and out of touch with the subtropics.
For the jurors that were not selected in the drug trafficking case we eventually migrated to another court room where jury selection took place for a rape case. The defendant was a young Chinese guy, early 20’s. The judge advised this trial will be conducted in Cantonese (whew!) and verified with me that I cannot speak the language. He then exempted me from jury duty but asked that I remain until the jury is empanelled. Jury selection then began, with names drawn from the white box. There was laughter in the court room after my name was drawn. The judge looked at me and said it’s my lucky day. The defending barrister objected to four or five jurors (anyone with grey hair and to two women), so the selection process was intense and prolonged. A young, mostly male jury was finally selected and sworn in.
It’s been about 25 years since I was last in a courtroom. Back in college, when things got really boring on a weekend night, occasionally we headed to night court for some entertainment. A particular night court judge was a real performer. He wore colorful bow ties and in between cases made animals and other objects out of balloons. The cases were typically misdemeanors, mostly white trash material. Those where the days before reality TV and trash talk shows. Today’s proceedings were a world away from night court in the U.S.