Bulletin No. 2, 2019

11 They Stand on the Shoulders of Giants Many countries around the world have long been outspoken for their stances on strict legal sanctions against all illicit drug uses and trades, particularly during the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ campaigns. Despite growing concerns about and even criticism of such punitive practices as violations of human rights standards and due process safeguards, few see the roots of the problem as derived from the political and ideological settings of respective societies. Prof. Michelle Miao is one of the few. Like many legal scholars, Professor Miao has been conscious of the possible ramifications of penal excessiveness on individual rights and liberty. ‘Of the 12 countries which have actively applied the death penalty to drug offenses in recent years, seven are in East and Southeast Asia,’ she writes. As an avid researcher on criminal law, criminal justice, and judicial politics in Asian countries, Professor Miao bridges disparate fields and generates a holistic approach in explaining why many countries have criminalized drug-related activities and imposed heavy sanctions on these offenses. By comparing and investigating the law, policies and practices among various Asian countries concerning their punitive responses to activities involving illicit drugs, Professor Miao explains that the harsh nature of criminal sanctions, to a large extent, is a product of populist political culture and ideological ethos. Jurist onHarsh Punishment Professor Miao explains how those punitive countries aim at consolidating their political power and popularity by portraying themselves as benevolent guardians of the good majority and use rationales such as enhancing community security and protecting the vulnerable public to justify their excessive actions and policies. She also proposes that a humane and constructive framework, rather than a draconian one, would be conducive to tackling the problem of illicit drugs. ‘Individual rights, dignity and liberties are basic fundamentals to all—innocent persons, suspects and criminals included.’ She quotes Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle in this regard: ‘Whether a person is guilty or not, life should be cared for and respected. And if a person is guilty, give him new life—the opportunity to rise from his old life.’ With the plentiful resources and academic ambience that CUHK offers, Professor Miao seeks to draw the attention of the wider public to the issue of illicit drugs, especially in the areas of criminal justice, human rights and policy agendas. ‘The institutional links between CUHK and other universities offer opportunities for exchange of ideas and visits. Plentiful resources are available for conducting research trips as well as organizing conferences.’