British judges could be asked to rule on Hong Kong national security cases

British judges could be asked to rule on cases brought under controversial new national security legislation imposed on Hong Kong this week, a senior Hong Kong judge has said.

There are 14 non-permanent foreign judges on the bench in Hong Kong, 10 of whom are from the UK – including Lord Reed, president of the UK Supreme Court, and his immediate predecessor, Lady Hale.

Conservative and Labour MPs yesterday raised concerns in the Commons about the role of British judges in the jurisdiction after Foreign Affairs Secretary Dominic Raab said the new law would “directly threaten the freedoms and rights” guaranteed by the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

Tom Tugendhat, chairperson of the Commons foreign affairs committee, said: “The legislation also raises questions about our legal system because, as the ​shadow Foreign Secretary said, British judges sit in judgment in Hong Kong. How can they defend civil and commercial rights if those rights are being violated by the very law they are sent to uphold?”

Hong Kong’s Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma said in a rare statement today that “judges of foreign nationality are not excluded” from being selected to rule on cases brought under the new legislation.

However, the new legislation specifies that the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong, the territory’s political leader, will appoint judges to hear national security cases, rather than Chief Justice Ma.

Andrew Li Kwok-nang, who served as Chief Justice of Hong Kong from 1997 to 2010, told the South China Morning Post last week that these provisions are “detrimental to the independence of the judiciary”.

Tags: Hong Kong

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