Secrecy on trial

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 June, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 June, 1994, 12:00am

CHIEF Justice Sir Ti Liang Yang has now stumbled into the controversy surrounding last week's secret trial of a drug trafficker. The judge who ordered the trial held behind closed doors has since admitted he erred in doing so, but it is too late - the damage has been done. Secret trials are reminiscent of what takes place in authoritarian countries where the line separating the executive and judiciary is blurred. At a time when sensitivities are running high over civil liberties and the independence of the judiciary, it is imperative that the principle of an open judicial system is upheld and carefully safeguarded.

As Chief Justice, Sir Ti Liang is the highest authority on the judicial system and it is only natural that the public and legal community look to him for leadership. How disappointing then for Sir Ti Liang to say that he would seek advice from Britain on its practice regarding secret trials. That is not what Hong Kong wanted to hear. Sir Ti Liang should have said in the most forceful manner that secret trials have no place in Hong Kong and that he would do his utmost to ensure it would not happen again.

What the public expects from the Chief Justice is leadership. What it got yesterday was anything but that.