HK legal representatives emphasize confidence in the independence of local courts, rejecting criticism of the British judge

Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal (HKCFA) Photo: VCG

The government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) said on Tuesday that it strongly disagrees with comments by Jonathan Sumption, a British judge who recently resigned from the city’s highest court, who said that “the rule of law in Hong Kong is in grave danger” .”HKSAR chief executive John Lee said on Tuesday that Sumption’s recent statement appeared to contradict his previous position on the issue.

Some legal representatives in Hong Kong found Sumption’s latest comments unconvincing, reiterating that the independence of Hong Kong’s courts is beyond question.

In an op-ed published in the Financial Times on Monday, Sumption commented on the latest judgment in the case of “more than 35” defendants in Hong Kong, saying that “the decision is symptomatic of a growing malaise in Hong Kong’s judiciary.”

Sumption, a non-permanent judge at the Court of Appeal (CFA) who recently resigned, attributed it to Hong Kong’s national security law, pressure from the central government, an “oppressive atmosphere” and political intimidation.

The HKSAR government on Tuesday rejected these claims, stating that there is absolutely no truth that the HKSAR courts are under any political pressure from the authorities of the Central Government or the HKSAR Government when adjudicating on national security matters or any matters of any kind; or that the rule of law is declining in Hong Kong.

Anyone who suggests otherwise, regardless of the reasons and motives, would be completely wrong, completely baseless and should be rightly rejected, an HKSAR government spokesman said.

Sumption and Lawrence Collins, two members of parliament from the CFA’s other common law jurisdictions, announced their resignations on Thursday. They were appointed to the NPJ panels of the city’s Supreme Court in 2019 and 2011, respectively.

Former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Beverley McLachlin also announced she was leaving the city’s Supreme Court.

In 2021, Sumption refused to take part in a political boycott organized in the UK and stated at the time that people should not confuse the rule of law with democracy, Lee said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Sumption stated that there was no democracy in Hong Kong during British rule. However, he found that at the time, the rule of law was upheld by judges ruling cases in accordance with the law and evidence, Lee continued.

“Democracy and the rule of law should not be confused. His latest statement shows that he does not like the political situation in Hong Kong. But this is exactly the area he told us about in 2021, which should not be confused with the rule of law. His latest statement seems to me to be inconsistent with his previous position on this issue,” the CEO said.

Lee said those trying to harm the rule of law in Hong Kong include: British residents, members of the British government, British politicians and some anti-China and anti-Hong Kong media.

They openly threatened to impose sanctions on judges before, during and after trials. He noted that these are blatant attempts to attack the rule of law in Hong Kong.

The HKSAR Government will never and will not interfere or attempt to interfere with judicial processes. We didn’t do it and we won’t do it. “Non-interference in the judicial process is the DNA of Hong Kong’s rule of law,” Lee said.

Even most of the foreign non-permanent judges who have stepped down believe that the independence of Hong Kong’s courts has not been compromised, Executive Council member and senior advocate Ronny Tong Ka-wah told the Global Times on Tuesday.

“Foreign judges may face some pressure, but it is believed that it is resisting pressure that makes a good judge,” Tong said.

Tong knows Sumption personally and does not believe Sumption has a thorough understanding of the topics discussed in the article.

“I am not speculating on whether there are other reasons behind Sumption’s statements that are not factually correct, but I do not find the article persuasive,” Tong said.

Judges at all levels are expected to uphold their judicial oath and truly adjudicate cases impartially and independently, in accordance with the law and the evidence, CFA President Andrew Cheung said in a public statement on Tuesday.

Any suggestion that their decisions have been or may be influenced by external considerations, political or otherwise, is a serious allegation that must be properly substantiated and should not be taken lightly, Cheung said.

“I am not surprised by the recent events because Western governments and politicians have continuously suppressed and denigrated Hong Kong in recent years, including putting enormous pressure on foreign CFA judges, forcing them to resign and destroying the rule of law and the political situation in Hong Kong,” Global said on Tuesday Times” Lau Siu-kai, a consultant with the Chinese Association for the Study of Hong Kong and Macau and a senior policy advisor.

In this context, the number of foreign judges in the CFA is expected to continue to decline. However, the West’s shameful tricks have a limited impact on Hong Kong’s international reputation for the rule of law, and Hong Kong people will not feel much of a difference, Lau said.

“In fact, Hong Kong can take this opportunity to develop a common law system that reflects and is consistent with the One Country, Two Systems principle, without continued obstruction by the West,” he said.