Hong Kong’s outgoing prime decide made a plea on Tuesday to keep up judicial independence as China state media and a rising host of pro-Beijing figures name for an overhaul of how the monetary hub’s courts are run.
Semi-autonomous Hong Kong owes a lot of its enterprise success to a clear and internationally revered widespread regulation authorized system that stands in stark distinction with the opaque, party-controlled courts in authoritarian China.
However that system has come underneath sustained strain within the politically charged wake of 2019’s big pro-democracy protests and Beijing’s subsequent crackdown.
Final 12 months Beijing started asserting extra direct management over town, together with imposing a sweeping nationwide safety regulation that silenced dissent and dented the authorized firewall between the enterprise hub and the mainland.
Senior Chinese language politicians, state media retailers in addition to main pro-Beijing figures and newspapers inside Hong Kong have additionally lobbied for reforming the judiciary or criticised latest judgments and sentences they dislike.
Opponents worry these calls might presage the arrival of a authorized system extra akin to the authoritarian mainland.
On Tuesday, Hong Kong’s chief justice Geoffrey Ma, 64, addressed these considerations at a remaining press convention forward of his retirement.
“What we want most is judicial independence in Hong Kong,” he stated.
“There are three articles within the Fundamental Legislation emphasising that Hong Kong has judicial independence, that is what we should always bear in mind essentially the most,” he added, referencing town’s mini-constitution.
Ma, who was born in Hong Kong and educated in Britain, stated the judiciary was open to reform if it meant bettering what they do.
“However it isn’t significantly passable to name for reform on the idea of a end result one doesn’t like. It’s definitely not a superb place to begin or acceptable that I would like reforms to make sure I at all times get the end result which I would like,” he added.
Judges have discovered themselves within the firing line of Hong Kong’s polarised politics, together with some who had personal particulars leaked on-line, often known as doxxing.
Each democracy supporters and authorities loyalists have criticised selections they dislike however calls to overtake the judiciary have to date solely come from pro-Beijing figures.
In the latest instance, final month Beijing’s communist celebration mouthpiece Folks’s Each day newspaper printed a scathing critique of a Hong Kong decide’s determination to grant bail to Jimmy Lai, a pro-democracy media tycoon who was later remanded again into custody by a extra senior court docket.
Ma stated he confronted no direct interference by Beijing or Hong Kong’s authorities throughout his ten years as town’s prime decide.
Criticism of judges, he ceded, had peaked final 12 months prompting his workplace to situation an “unprecedented” variety of statements.
However he rejected considerations that such strain would impression the impartiality of judges.
“Within the dealing with of circumstances, judges are going to look solely on the regulation, authorized precept and the spirit of the regulation,” he stated.
Ma might be succeeded by Andrew Cheung, a fellow everlasting decide on the Court docket of Closing Attraction.