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Thursday, December 08, 2022

Britain removes judges from Hong Kong’s top court Nation World News

Britain said on Wednesday it was withdrawing its judges from Hong Kong’s top court because placing them there would “legalize persecution” in the British colony.

British judges have sat on the court since Hong Kong returned to China in 1997. The British government’s move underlines the growing isolation of the Asian financial center as the ruling Communist Party of China works to assert its control and silence independent voices.

While judges in Britain served on the Court of Final Appeal as part of efforts to protect the rule of law in the city, the British government said it was “no longer valid” due to increasingly repressive laws enacted by China. Two senior British judges submitted their resignations in court on Wednesday.

“The courts in Hong Kong are respected internationally for their commitment to the rule of law,” said UK Supreme Court President Robert Reid after resigning from the Hong Kong court. “Nevertheless, I have concluded in agreement with the government that Supreme Court judges cannot continue to sit in Hong Kong without supporting an administration that has departed from the values ​​of political freedom and freedom of expression.”

Fourteen non-permanent judges reside in the city’s Court of Final Appeal, including 10 from other common law jurisdictions such as Australia and Canada.

Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada Beverly McLachlin is one of the part-time foreign judges. She said she has “no comment at this time” by the CBC on Wednesday to ask if she has made any decisions about her future in a Hong Kong court.

China has intensified its crackdown on Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous political and legal institutions in recent years. Those efforts include the passage of a comprehensive national security law in 2020 and changes to the electoral system, which have effectively ended political opposition in the region.

The security law, which prevents secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign collusion, has been used to arrest more than 100 pro-democracy people, and many others have fled abroad. Since the introduction of the law, Hong Kong police have raided the offices of pro-democracy media, locked them up and arrested journalists.

MPs, students and organizers of candlelight memorials marking the Communist Party’s deadly 1989 crackdown on the pro-democracy movement were also targeted.

‘tipping point’

The security law prompted criticism from some Western governments and the United Nations that Beijing was ruining Hong Kong’s status as a trade and financial center when the city was transferred back to China under the “one country, two systems” principle. was promised to do.

Hongkong
Top court judges in Hong Kong attend a ceremony to mark the start of the new legal year in Hong Kong in this photo from 2002. (Reuters)

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said, “We have seen a systematic erosion of freedom and democracy in Hong Kong. Ever since the national security law was enacted, authorities have cracked down on free speech, free press and free association.”

“The situation has reached a climax where it is no longer appropriate for British judges to sit on Hong Kong’s leading court, and there would be a risk of legalizing harassment.”

In a statement issued after the resignation, Hong Kong Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng said, “The constitutional basis on which our judicial independence is based will not be shaken.”

In a statement, Hong Kong Chief Justice Andrew Cheung noted the resignations of Reid and Hodge with “sorry”. Cheung said the judiciary is committed to the rule of law and foreign judges have made valuable contributions to the city’s courts.

The Hong Kong Bar Association, which represents the city’s barristers, said the decision was “with deep regret.” It appealed to the remaining foreign judges of the Court of Final Appeal to help them live and serve in the city and maintain its judicial independence.

British lawmakers welcomed the decision to expel British judges after several years in Hong Kong. Tom Tugendhat, a senior Conservative Party member of parliament, said British judges “should not help overpower a legal system that is now being used to shut down Hong Kong without due process.”

Conservative MP Ian Duncan Smith, a longtime critic of the government in Beijing, said: [U.K.] The government has done the right thing here, and not a minute too early.”

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