Justice chief Rimsky Yuen calls for 'rational, unbiased' legal debate

Rimsky Yuen warns intense legal discussions could result in polarised, politicised arguments

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 November, 2012, 4:18am

Justice minister Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung yesterday called for rational, unbiased discussion of hotly debated legal issues to avoid the "polarisation and politicisation" of society.

He was speaking at a meeting of lawmakers shunned by ex-justice secretary Elsie Leung Oi-sie.

Amid fears for the future of the city's legal system, lawmakers had invited Leung to explain her remarks that Hong Kong judges need better knowledge of the mainland.

Yuen said the current "intense discussions" were understandable, but that he hoped they could take place "on a rational, objective and constructive basis, to avoid the issues from unnecessarily leading to a polarised, or overly politicised, debate".

Leung, vice-chairwoman of the Basic Law Committee of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, had declined to attend the meeting, saying if she heeded the demand to attend, it might turn Legco panel meetings into "McCarthy hearings" - a reference to the witch-hunts of communist sympathisers in the 1950s by Republican US senator Joseph McCarthy.

Democratic Party lawmaker Emily Lau Wai-hing said Leung's "alarming" remarks undermined the constitutional foundation of the "one country, two systems" formula for ruling Hong Kong.

Bar Association chairman Kumar Ramanathan said freedom of expression came with responsibility, which was "even higher when you look at the position and status of the person who utters those statements, because they tend to carry the weight of the office of the person expressing those views".

Pro-establishment lawmakers said the alarm over Leung's remarks was an exaggeration. "I see no need for Elsie Leung to come here. Every one has his or her freedom of speech," said Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong chairman Tam Yiu-chung.

Meanwhile Kemal Bokhary, a non-permanent Court of Final Appeal judge who warned recently that a "storm of unprecedented ferocity" was gathering over the legal system, received an honorary degree from the University of Hong Kong.

In an acceptance speech, Bokhary said: "If we maintain our vigilance, we can maintain the rule of law."