Judiciary continues to inspire confidence

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 February, 2011, 12:00am

Judicial independence is one of the most important factors determining the success of Hong Kong under the unique 'one country, two systems' principle and it is guaranteed in the Basic Law. It is therefore imperative that our legal professionals, especially within our judiciary, not only act with the utmost integrity and independence, but also maintain public confidence by dispelling any unfounded suspicions about their independence. To their credit, public confidence in the rule of law remains high. The latest University of Hong Kong survey found the public's rating for the city's rule of law at almost seven points out of 10, the highest since 2007. Meanwhile, the new Chief Justice, Geoffrey Ma Tao-li, has scored a rating of 62.9 per cent.

To a certain extent, this is against the odds, and in the context of the way Hong Kong politics has developed in recent years as well as the relatively small size of the Hong Kong community, those results are even more impressive. Each year, there are over 100 cases reaching the courts in which government decisions are being challenged, while there are many more which involve influential and public figures or friends and family of public servants, even of judges themselves. Every day, media reports about various cases around the city place the judiciary under scrutiny. And while questions are often asked of the judiciary's independence, it has shown itself not only as capable of deciding cases purely on legal merit, but also capable of explaining decisions in a manner which convinces the public that political factors or popular opinion played no part in legal decisions. As a result, the public continues to give the rule of law and our judiciary a vote of confidence. The survey results also indicate that the people have an innate understanding of the importance of these principles, judging our chief justice with very different criteria than politicians who are struggling to inspire confidence.

Public confidence is notoriously fragile. But these latest results should only act as further encouragement to the judiciary. Efforts by the judiciary to be open to the public with clearly reasoned decisions will be rewarded with greater confidence.