Sir Ti Liang 'should quit' over rights bill blunder

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 December, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 December, 1995, 12:00am

THE Chief Justice should resign because he has undermined the independence of the Judiciary, according to a poll of lawyers.

They said the damage had been done by his report on the Bill of Rights to the Chief Secretary last month.

The poll, to be published in January's issue of The New Gazette, found that 80 per cent of lawyers who responded thought Sir Ti Liang Yang had undermined the Judiciary's independence.

And 66 per cent said he should resign, against 30 per cent saying he should stay.

The survey found Mr Justice Litton was mentioned most often as Sir Ti Liang's expected successor, but only 22 per cent said they wanted him to get the job, against 46 per cent who had no preference.

Eighty per cent said Chief Secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang had undermined the independence of the Judiciary by requesting a meeting with, and report from, the Chief Justice on the Bill of Rights.

The meeting followed the controversy which erupted when Chinese official Zhang Junsheng made public comments Sir Ti Liang had made on the bill at a dinner party.

Sir Ti Liang was quoted as saying he agreed with China that the bill overrode other laws. The Government says that it does not.

About 1,700 questionnaires were distributed to the 30 largest solicitors' firms and 22 largest barristers' chambers, plus a separate list of 700 lawyers, in late November and early December, and 148 responses were received.

The Judiciary said it had no comment to make 'save that it [the survey] has been conducted upon erroneous factual assumptions'.

The poll showed Sir Ti Liang's private comments received least criticism from lawyers, with 62 per cent saying the Chief Justice did 'err in discussing his private views about the Bill of Rights'.

His public statements after Mr Zhang disclosed his comments were more harshly criticised, with 74 per cent disapproving.

But this was still less than those disapproving of the report to Mrs Chan, in which Sir Ti Liang said the bill 'occupies a position between the Basic Law . . . and the ordinary statutes' and was creating 'cause for concern'.

Johannes Chan Man-mun, barrister and senior lecturer in law at the University of Hong Kong, said the survey showed 'strong misgivings' on the report to Mrs Chan.

He said it 'accurately represents those surveyed, but doesn't seem to be a large cross-section of the legal profession' because it omitted small chambers and small solicitors' firms. He said the poll on potential successors to the Chief Justice was likely to elicit 'off-the-cuff responses'.

Apart from Mr Justice Litton, no potential successors to Sir Ti Liang received more than a handful of mentions, with Mr Justice Liu and Mr Justice Ching, the next most common names, getting around five per cent each.

There have been unconfirmed reports the Chief Justice has requested an extension to his term of office, due to end on June 29.

The New Gazette acknowledged the poll was open to manipulation, because it did not rely on individually numbered poll forms.