Rule of law in Hong Kong ‘seriously under threat’, says British judge | World News

Authors: William James and James Pomfret

Rule of law in Hong Kong ‘seriously under threat’, says British judge

LONDON/HONG KONG – The rule of law in Hong Kong is deeply threatened in areas where the government has strong opinions, said Monday a British judge who resigned from Hong Kong’s highest appeals court last week.

Jonathan Sumption is one of two British judges to step down shortly after the landmark judgment in which 14 prominent democracy activists were convicted of sedition over a national security crackdown on dissent.

Some lawyers say the resignations challenge the assumption long held by some legal scholars that the presence of foreign lawyers on the high court helps protect the city’s international image after China imposed a national security law on Hong Kong in 2020 in response to massive pro-democracy protests.

Explaining his final decision to resign, Sumption said Hong Kong authorities were paranoid about political dissent.

“Hong Kong, once a vibrant and politically diverse community, is slowly becoming a totalitarian state. The rule of law is under serious threat in all areas on which the government feels strongly,” Sumption wrote in an editorial published on the Financial Times website.

Hong Kong leader John Lee disagreed with Sumption’s comments and said judges had no expertise in political matters. He also accused Britain and other countries of trying to interfere in Hong Kong’s legal affairs.

Chinese and Hong Kong authorities say the national security law is necessary and has ensured stability.

“Some British officials and politicians are trying to use the influence of the British judiciary as a weapon to target China and the HKSAR,” Lee told reporters.

“A judge is entitled to his personal political preferences, but this is not his area of ​​professional specialization.”

While some outgoing foreign Supreme Court judges have expressed concerns about Hong Kong’s tighter security laws, none have gone as far as Sumption.

The resignations add to the number of British lawyers who have severed ties with Hong Kong’s highest court amid a years-long crackdown on dissent to the mainland’s national security law.

The court’s other judge, Canadian Beverley McLachlin, announced on Monday that she would step down when her three-year term expires on July 29.

Britain, which handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997, said the security law, which punishes crimes such as sedition, punishable by life imprisonment, had been used to restrict dissent and freedom.

Many pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong have been arrested, detained or forced into exile, civil society groups have been shut down and liberal media outlets have been forced to close.

Last month, 14 pro-democracy activists were found guilty and two acquitted in a landmark sedition trial that critics say has further undermined the city’s rule of law and its reputation as a global financial center.

The verdicts in Hong Kong’s largest trial against the democratic opposition came more than three years after police arrested 47 democracy activists in dawn raids on homes across the city.

“The real problem is that this decision is symptomatic of a growing malaise in the Hong Kong judiciary,” Sumption wrote.

This article was generated from an automated feed from a news agency, without any modifications to the text.