Kemal Bokhary is the former permanent judge of Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal. Bokhary qualified as a barrister in the United Kingdom at 23 but returned to work in Hong Kong, where he was born. He has served as one of the four permanent judges in the Court of Final Appeal since 1997. Bokhary is known for his sense of humour in court. He stepped down on October 24, 2012 – a day before he turned 65.
Dangerous views 'must be tolerated in a free society'
Mr Justice Bokhary told mainland legal scholars freedom of expression meant tolerating statements you disagree with and even those you regard as dangerous.
The judge made his comments when, during the trip, he was asked by a student at Tsinghua University about the right of people in the SAR to speak freely on Taiwan.
'One student did ask me about the right to speak freely in Hong Kong about the situation in Taiwan. He prefaced his question by saying that I didn't have to answer it if I regarded it as sensitive.
'I said there was no problem about that and I answered his question simply, in the traditional way, that under our notion of freedom of speech you tolerate statements you disagree with or even statements which you regard as rather dangerous.
'If you happen to agree with what people are saying, that is not toleration. It is when you disagree or regard their statements as particularly harmful and still tolerate those statements that you're respecting freedom of speech.' Mr Justice Bokhary said there was no verbal reaction to his remarks from the students.
'But sometimes you can sense the atmosphere of a gathering. I think the things I said about freedom of speech accorded with their feelings about the matter,' he said.
The judge's comments in Beijing were less than a week after senior mainland official Wang Fengchao sparked outrage by saying local media should not report views that advocate Taiwanese independence.