Beijing loyalists fault top court's 'dictatorial' style

Voice of Loving Hong Kong vows to scrutinise Court of Final Appeal's 'erroneous' judgments

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 January, 2014, 4:14am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 January, 2014, 4:23pm

A hardline pro-Beijing group has pressed ahead with its plan to scrutinise the top court's "dictatorial style", defying the justice chief's warning against interfering with judicial independence.

The group, Voice of Loving Hong Kong, said yesterday it would collaborate with legal professionals to "check and balance the Court of Final Appeal's erroneous judgments".

Fear of such moves undermining judicial work rose after Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung said this week that "abusive attacks" on judges like those seen last year should be discouraged.

Group convenor Patrick Ko Tat-pun said the group's dissatisfaction stemmed from the top court's ruling last month that new immigrants no longer had to wait seven years to qualify for welfare benefits. "This judgment shows that the judiciary wields paramount power, even above the executive branch, by overturning a government policy," he said. "It's like a dictatorship."

Ko said the group would start collecting "information regarding judges' political stances … and judgments" for what he called "academic" purposes.

The findings could see the Court of Final Appeal held accountable for wrong judgments, and the group would ask judges who had come up with such judgments to step down, he said.

The group also criticised Yuen for interfering with their freedom of expression. In a reply to the South China Morning Post, the Department of Justice hit back, stressing that Yuen had not meant to restrict freedom of speech.

"[However] the exercise of freedom of speech in the context of discussing judicial decisions is not without limit … In common law, scurrilous abuse of judges may amount to a form of contempt of court," it said.

"[Yuen] wanted to convey a message that people, when discussing judicial decisions, should not overstep the boundary permitted by the law."

Ko also claimed that Yuen had acted in breach of his duty as justice secretary by voicing support for judges overseen by Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li. The department called it Yuen's "constitutional duty".

Ma earlier said he saw no threat of abusive attacks. Yesterday, his top court colleague, non-permanent judge Kemal Bokhary, agreed. "It doesn't worry me," said Bokhary, of the group's plan. "If they want to collect our judgments, go ahead."