There is a small courthouse from the ‘British era’, standing right in the center of Hong Kong. It is neat, well-built, remarkably organized and some would even say – elegant.
Earlier this year I visited there with an Afghan-British lawyer, who had been touring East Asia for several months. Hong Kong was her last destination; afterwards she was planning to return home to London. The Orient clearly confused and overwhelmed her, and no matter how ‘anti-imperialist’ she tried to look, most of her references were clearly going back to the adoptive homeland – the United Kingdom.
“It looks like England,” she exclaimed when standing in the middle of Hong Kong. There was clearly excitement and nostalgia in her voice.
To cheer her up even more, I took her to the courthouse. My good intentions backfired: as we were leaving, she uttered words that I expected but also feared for quite some time:
“You know, there are actually many good things that can be said about the British legal system.”
I thought about that short episode in Hong Kong now, as I drove all around her devastated country of childhood, Afghanistan. As always, I worked without protection, with no bulletproof vests, armored vehicles or military escorts, just with my Afghan driver who doubled as my interpreter and also as my friend. It was Ramadan and to let him rest, I periodically got behind the wheel. We were facing countless detentions, arrests and interrogations by police, military and who knows what security forces, but we were moving forward, always forward, despite all obstacles.
From that great distance, from the heights of the mountains of Afghanistan, the courthouse in Hong Kong kept falling into proportion and meaningful perspective.