U.K. Mulls Future of Judges in Hong Kong Over New Law

(Bloomberg) — Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is consulting with the U.K.’s most senior legal officer on the position of British judges in Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal, as he condemned China’s “chilling” national security law for suppressing legal freedoms in the former British colony.

© Photographer: VIVEK PRAKASH/AFP
The Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s independent judiciary is a key to its success as a global financial hub, and its constitution, known as the Basic Law, states that judges may come from other common law jurisdictions. Senior judges from the U.K., Australia and New Zealand occasionally hear cases in Hong Kong based on their expertise on points of public and constitutional importance.

But Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has argued there is no separation of legal and political powers under the Basic Law, and international observers have expressed concern about the future impartiality of the court under China’s new national security law and other efforts to quell dissent.

China Warns U.K. it Will ‘Pay the Price’ For Poisoned Relations

Lam on Monday night wrote on Facebook that the U.K.’s “double standards are on full display.”

By considering the status of Britain’s judges, Raab is using another tool to protest the implementation by China of national security laws that criminalize a broad range of acts, such as sedition, secession, foreign collusion and terrorism. He has already offered U.K. visas to Hong Kong citizens and banned the export of weapons to the region.

Judicial Independence

The U.K. will “monitor” the use of the National Security Law that allows “the mainland authorities to take jurisdiction over certain cases without any independent oversight” and “its implications for the role of U.K. judges in the Hong Kong justice system,” Raab said in a written report to Parliament Monday.

Last month, Hong Kong’s Lam pointed to the appointment of the deputy president of the U.K. Supreme Court, Lord Patrick Stewart Hodge, to the roster of foreign judges, as evidence of judicial independence.

Hong Kong authorities said Tuesday that they “strongly object to sweeping attacks and groundless accusations on several recent developments” by the U.K.

“It is time for the U.K. government to respect law-abiding Hong Kong people’s aspirations for stability and prosperity and appreciate her well-positioned status to flourish under ‘One Country, Two Systems’ with the full and unreserved support of the Central People’s Government,” Hong Kong’s government said in a statement.

(Corrects to show Raab wrote to Parliament on Monday in sixth paragraph)

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