Appeal court judges should all be Chinese nationals, scholars say

Basic Law experts says changing the rule only way to ensure 'Hongkongers rule Hong Kong'

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 November, 2012, 7:19am

All judges of the Court of Final Appeal should be Chinese nationals, to reflect the principle of Hongkongers ruling Hong Kong, two key Basic Law experts say.

The idea was floated by mainland scholar Cheng Jie, who suggested the Court of Final Appeal undergo a reform.

"It should not only be a court for the [city] but also a national court," Cheng, who is Tsinghua University associate law professor and former researcher for the Basic Law Committee, told a seminar on the mini-constitution yesterday.

To do that, "I boldly think that Court of Final Appeal judges should be Chinese nationals. A bolder thought is that all the judges should at least have Hong Kong permanent residency. Only this way can Hongkongers ruling Hong Kong be demonstrated."

Under the Basic Law, only the chief justice of the Court of Final Appeal and the chief judge of the High Court need be Chinese citizens who are SAR permanent residents with no right of abode in any foreign country.

It also states that judges of Hong Kong courts shall be appointed by the chief executive on the recommendation of an independent commission.

The Court of Final Appeal, headed by Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li, has three permanent and 15 non-permanent judges. It is believed that most of them are not Chinese nationals.

Alan Hoo SC, chairman of the Basic Law Institute, asked why most final-appeal judges did not have to be Chinese citizens while principal officials of the executive branch did.

Cheng also suggested the Basic Law Committee be revamped to have more say when advising the National People's Congress Standing Committee.

Eric Cheung Tat-ming, associate law professor of the University of Hong Kong, opposed politicising the appointment of the judges and restricting the posts to Chinese nationals.

The judicial system should be kept unchanged for 50 years based on the Sino-British Joint Declaration, Cheung noted.