Two more British judges resign from Hong Kong’s top court

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Two of nan past remaining British judges to beryllium connected Hong Kong’s apical tribunal person resigned, pinch 1 citing nan governmental business successful nan erstwhile colony.

Lawrence Collins and Jonathan Sumption, erstwhile UK ultimate tribunal justices, announced their resignations connected Thursday. “I person resigned from nan tribunal of last entreaty because of nan governmental business successful Hong Kong, but I proceed to person nan fullest assurance successful nan tribunal and nan full independency of its members,” Lord Collins said.

Their departures mean that of nan 8 remaining overseas judges connected Hong Kong’s tribunal of last entreaty (CFA), 3 are from nan UK.

Overseas judges connected Hong Kong’s apical tribunal person been a fixture of nan city’s ineligible system, which dissimilar mainland China’s is derived from English communal law, since nan handover from British to Chinese norm successful 1997.

The judges service successful a backstage capacity and are paid astir £40,000 a visit, flying into Hong Kong to beryllium connected definite cases. For decades, they were seen arsenic lending prestige and expertise to a jurisdiction admired crossed Asia.

But successful caller years, arsenic nan Chinese authorities has tightened its grip connected Hong Kong, location person been calls for nan overseas judges to resign.

In 2022, Robert Reed, nan president of nan UK ultimate court, and his workfellow Patrick Hodge, resigned from nan Hong Kong bench because of concerns astir endorsing an management that appeared to person “departed from values of governmental freedom, and state of expression”.

Lord Sumption had antecedently told nan Guardian that he joined nan Hong Kong tribunal to “serve nan group of Hong Kong” and that nan departure of overseas judges would not beryllium adjuvant to them. He is yet to make a connection astir his resignation connected Thursday.

Alyssa Fong, nan nationalist affairs defense head for nan Committee for Freedom successful Hong Kong Foundation, said nan news was “extremely welcome”.

Fong said: “We person agelong advocated that nary overseas judges should proceed to springiness immoderate shape of credibility to nan Hong Kong courts and authoritarian crackdown” and called for nan remaining judges to resign.

Since nan pro-democracy protests that rocked nan metropolis successful 2019 and 2020, nan authorities person imposed 2 nationalist information laws connected nan territory. The first was imposed by Beijing successful 2020, nan second, known arsenic article 23, was passed by Hong Kong’s opposition-free parliament successful March this year, with nan first arrests coming successful caller weeks. Legal experts, occidental governments and activists opportunity nan laws are a rustle to free look successful nan city.

Hundreds of group person been arrested nether nan 2020 nationalist information law, including nan British national Jimmy Lai, who is connected proceedings connected nationalist information charges. This month, 14 group were recovered guilty of conspiracy to perpetrate subversion successful nan biggest nationalist information proceedings of pro-democracy activists, known arsenic nan “Hong Kong 47” (31 of nan 47 had already pleaded guilty).

The Hong Kong 47 proceedings was presided complete by a sheet of judges handpicked by nan main executive to grip nationalist information cases. The engagement of nan Beijing-backed main executive successful choosing judges for nationalist information cases – which tin beryllium heard without a assemblage – raises questions astir nan robustness of nan English communal rule system, which dictates that nan judiciary should beryllium independent from nan government.

A spokesperson for nan Hong Kong judiciary said: “Chief Justice Andrew Cheung of nan Hong Kong tribunal of last entreaty notes pinch regret nan resignations of Lord Collins of Mapesbury and Lord Sumption arsenic non-permanent judges of nan Hong Kong tribunal of last appeal.”

The spokesperson added that Collins and Sumption “have made valuable contributions to nan activity of nan tribunal for which we successful Hong Kong are very grateful”.

“The main justness has complete assurance that nan CFA will proceed to afloat execute its law domiciled arsenic nan last appellate tribunal successful Hong Kong. Its cognition will not beryllium affected by immoderate alteration successful rank of nan court.”

The past remaining British judges connected nan CFA are Lennie Hoffmann, David Neuberger and Nick Phillips. Lord Neuberger will beryllium portion of a sheet that hears an entreaty from Lai and different pro-democracy activists successful a lawsuit regarding an unlawful assembly condemnation later this month.

Source theguardian