Outspoken judge urged to resign
LAWYERS say a High Court judge, who commented in public on the merits of a case which he might hear, should resign.
Mr Justice Liu, president of the recently-established Local Judicial Officers' Association, said expatriate civil servants who were considering suing the Government over its localisation policy had no chance of winning the case.
Constitutional lawyers say the judge's comments have compromised the impartiality of the Judiciary.
Mr Justice Liu, 61, the most senior High Court judge, said in an interview with a Chinese newspaper last month that the Association of Expatriate Civil Servants (AECS) could not win because the policy did not breach the Bill of Rights.
In an earlier interview with three other Chinese newspapers, the judge said four other local judges agreed with his views.
Last month, he said a local judge could still deal with the case impartially.
One shocked lawyer said: ''This is most improper behaviour on the part of the judges who participated in that discussion.
''Mr Justice Liu and his colleagues, by prejudging a case that might be brought before them, have manifested bias and now are unable to hear the AECS case.'' Mr Justice Liu is one of only four judges allotted to hear judicial reviews, which is what the expatriate officers' case would be.
If the judge refuses to heed calls for his resignation, several lawyers said steps should be taken to see whether he should be impeached.
Lawyers were concerned that the Chief Justice, Sir Ti Liang Yang, could see nothing wrong with Mr Justice Liu's comments.
Asked about the propriety of a High Court judge publicly commenting on the merits of a case which could come before him, Sir Ti Liang said: ''This is entirely a matter for the judge concerned.'' A spokesman for the Judiciary added that the impartiality and independence of the Judiciary had in no way been affected.
It is well known that Sir Ti Liang and Mr Justice Liu have not got on since the Chief Justice gave an interview saying there was no local judge in the High Court who would be able to replace him. Mr Justice Liu has also been passed over twice for elevation to the Court of Appeal.
Mr Justice Liu is the brother of well-known lawyer and China supporter Ms Dorothy Liu Yiu-chiu.
This week, the AECS wrote to the judge asking him to publicly retract his statements and apologise, but received a curt reply refusing to respond.
Yesterday, the association made a formal complaint to the Chief Justice.
Mr Allan Roger, chairman of the AECS localisation committee, said Mr Justice Liu's remarks were inappropriate.
''If the matter did come to court, it's very clear Mr Justice Liu and any colleagues he purports to represent would have to be disqualified from hearing this issue as having already decided the issue before hearing arguments,'' he said.
''That is unfortunate from our point of view; we would welcome having a Chinese judge hear the matter.'' He also feared Mr Justice Liu's stance might affect their representations to Legislative Councillors, who, they hope, will put pressure on the administration to change the policy under which expatriates with many years' service are being told to leave.
If this fails, Mr Roger said the AECS would start raising funds for the estimated $1 million plus legal fees from members.
A constitutional expert said: ''In particular the judge ought to reveal the names of the other local judges who also have the same opinion and who have permitted him to be the mouthpiece of their opinions.
''It's clear that the Local Judicial Officers' Association is a political animal and that it is blurring the distinction between the Judiciary and the executive by actively participating in political issues.'' He said the Chief Justice's acquiescence in Mr Justice Liu's public statements would stir up concern that this was the start of the crumbling independence of the Judiciary.
Mr Justice Liu refused to be interviewed by the South China Morning Post either on this issue or on his association. Other members of the association said they were not allowed to speak.