Kemal Bokhary

Ex-justice secretary Wong Yan-lung denies 'storm cloud' over judiciary

Wong Yan-lung rejects retired judge's warning over threat to judiciary's independence

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 December, 2012, 4:10am


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The previous secretary for justice says he sees no "storm clouds" gathering over the rule of law, countering a judge's recent warning of a threat to the city's judicial independence.

One of the city's best-known judges, Mr Justice Kemal Bokhary, said in October that "storm clouds of unprecedented ferocity" were gathering over the courts.

But yesterday Wong Yan-lung said: "I see no 'storm clouds' in the judicial system, as the Court of Final Appeal is the highest appellate court in Hong Kong. It can resolve many big issues, maintaining the stability of Hong Kong. It is not being undermined." He was speaking after being conferred with an honorary doctorate in law by Shue Yan University.

In a written reply to questions from the South China Morning Post, Bokhary - a non-permanent judge of the Court of Final Appeal known for his liberal stance - said he considered the outcome of the landmark 1999 right-of-abode case to have been "most unfortunate for the rule of law".

That year, the Court of Final Appeal ruled that people born on the mainland to a permanent Hong Kong resident qualified for the right of abode. But the National People's Congress Standing Committee overturned key parts of that ruling in a reinterpretation of the Basic Law sought by the local government.

Yesterday, Wong also said he believed Hong Kong would remain unchanged for 50 years.

Basic Law Committee vice-chairwoman Elsie Leung Oi-sie raised eyebrows last month when she said people were mistaken if they thought Beijing's promise of "an unchanged way of life for 50 years" meant there would be no change, adding: "The legal system itself is ever changing."

On Thursday, she told a Tsinghua University forum: "It is incorrect to think the central government could exercise its powers only on issues of Hong Kong's defence and foreign affairs".

Wong said he did not believe the central leadership would interfere in local affairs. But he cautioned: "Any person who handles legal matters must be vigilant, to prevent the legal system from being challenged."

He also defended the way the city's mini-constitution had been implemented.