HK govt refutes inaccurate statements on the independence and impartiality of judges after two UK magistrates resign
Published: Mar 31, 2022 01:56 AM
Photo: VCGThe government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) refuted on Wednesday the inaccurate statements that questioned the independence and impartiality of judges after the resignation of the President and the Deputy President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom who served as non-permanent judges (NPJs) of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal (CFA), stressing that the judicial independence in the region is constitutionally guaranteed by the Basic Law. The Chief Justice of the CFA, Andrew Cheung Kui-nung, expressed his regret for the resignation of Lord Reed of Allermuir and Lord Hodge as NPJs of the CFA, meanwhile reiterated that the Judiciary's commitment to uphold the rule of law and judicial independence in Hong Kong will be wholly unaffected by the departure of the two judges.In a statement posted on Wednesday, the Secretary of Justice of the HKSAR, Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah, rebutted some unfair critiques regarding the creation of a list of designated judges who handle cases of violations of national security after the enactment of the national security law for Hong Kong, with some falsely claiming that the Chief Executive could handpick judges to preside over national security cases. "These accusations are not only baseless but also factually incorrect," Cheng said in the statement, noting that the designation of judges by the Chief Executive only establishes a panel of justices to deal with national security cases, while the listing, assignment and handling of cases have always been functions to be exercised by the Judiciary independently.A designated judge is free to decide a case based only on applicable law and admissible evidence, free from any interference, Chen said.According to the Basic Law, the power of final adjudication in the HKSAR is vested in the CFA, which may, as required, invite magistrates from other common law jurisdictions to sit on the Court. After the resignation of Lord Reed and Lord Hodge, there are currently four local NPJs and 10 NPJs that come from other common law jurisdictions in the CFA, according to the CFA.Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, member of the HKSAR Basic Law Committee under the National People's Congress Standing Committee, told the Global Times on Wednesday that Hong Kong can take this opportunity to recruit more qualified judges in other common law jurisdictions besides the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Leung noted that the appointment of judges should be based on their judicial and professional qualities, adding that it is not appropriate to recruit magistrates that hold important posts in foreign courts as NPJs of the Hong Kong CFA because they are often seen by the public as representing their country, which would "cause unnecessary political embarrassment." She suggested the government could consider recruiting retired judges from Singapore and Malaysia who are more familiar with Chinese culture and family values and can make decisions better suited to Hong Kong. Robert Reed and Patrick Hodge last sat on their post in the second half of 2021 respectively and neither have been scheduled to continue in 2022, according to the CFA.