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  • Aug 31, 2014
  • Updated: 6:55am
Beijing White Paper 2014
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white paper

Hong Kong barristers hit out at Beijing’s white paper, vow to protect judicial independence

Bar Association criticises the placing of judges in same category as top officials as 'erroneous' and pledges to defend judicial independence

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 June, 2014, 3:02pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 June, 2014, 12:55pm

Barristers have come out in strong defence of Hong Kong's judicial independence, a day after the central government published an unprecedented white paper outlining Beijing's "comprehensive jurisdiction" over the city.

The Bar Association said it was "erroneous" for Beijing to place local judges in the same category as "Hong Kong's administrators", including the chief executive and top officials.

People need not be overly sensitive or read too much into certain wordings

While courts elsewhere might "sing in unison" with the government, that was not the case in Hong Kong, it said.

"Any erroneous public categorisation of judges and judicial officers as 'administrators' or official exhortation for them to carry out any political mission or task" would send out the wrong message to Hongkongers and the international community, it said.

In the white paper, issued by the State Council on Tuesday, Beijing suggests judges "have on their shoulders the responsibility of correctly understanding and implementing the Basic Law".

It also says administrators - including, for Beijing, judges - have a "basic political requirement" to love the country.

The Bar Association took exception to the paper categorising judges as administrators and officially ordering them to fulfil political roles.

That sent out a message that Hong Kong courts were not independent, it said.

Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung disagreed with the association.

He said last night: "People need not be overly sensitive or read too much into certain wordings. I hope people will read the entire white paper in a positive attitude and not from the view of a conspiracy theory."

The association also cited its own remarks, made in 2008 when it was chaired by Yuen, which read: "The judiciary in Hong Kong has always been, and under the Basic Law it shall remain, separate and independent from the executive and the legislature".

But Yuen said the comment was not relevant in this case as the judiciary was part of the political structure, not the governance team. Elsie Leung Oi-sie, deputy director of the Basic Law Committee, said the judiciary was part of the city's political structure under the Basic Law.

"There is no conflict between judges performing their duties independently, without fear and favour, and safeguarding national interests as Hong Kong residents," said Leung, a former justice secretary.

The Basic Law states Hong Kong courts shall exercise judicial power independently and free from any interference, she noted.

Former association chairman Ronny Tong Ka-wah, now a Civic Party lawmaker, felt the white paper had misunderstood the city's judicial system.

"There are many foreign judges in Hong Kong," he noted. "To ask them to be patriots means they should be close to government - but then how can Hong Kong keep its rule of law?"

The Law Society, which regulates the city's solicitors, declined to comment immediately.

Vice-president Thomas So Shiu-tsung said he saw no change in Beijing's attitude on the city's judicial independence.


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This article is now closed to comments

To learn Nouveau Red Guard Speak read pslhk!
Swollen heads like to mouth judicial independence
without the slightest idea of its practical meaning
To appreciate limey judicial independence
follow the history of the various number cases
from Thatcher to Blair
Rule of law?
Try Al-Yamamah and GSK
before and after the Bribery Act
To learn common lawyer speak
watch the holiness of Obama
when he accused China of hacking
right before ES revelation
So, do we have any unanswered questions as to what the masters think of one nation, two systems? My guess is the CE will tell us why they masters are correct and how we owe our continued existence to the Masters. Ah, to have our people sing March of the Volunteers to prove to Mother China we are proper slaves, but instead we question the masters' wisdom. Heresy. Thank goodness we have good Communist Slaves to support the masters here in HK.
Not content with endorsing the undermining of the rule of law and judicial independence (twin bedrocks upon which Hong Kong's past and future prosperity were and need to be based), it seems that some correspondents below are also keen on turning Hong Kong into a kind of Asian Zimbabwe. Well done chaps!
Judicial independence? Nice to have known you. Sad to see you go. But HKers can definitely kiss it bye bye. It won't devolve overnight. But some day, within the next 33 years, HKers will find that the HK courts will have simply become the punitive arm of the CCP political system, which is precisely what it is in the mainland.
Basic Law can no longer be considered "law" in any practical sense of the word. From here onward, the law will simply mean whatever it is the CCP wants it to mean at any given point in time. Again, this has long been the case on the mainland. It is the new reality that HKers had best start getting used to, as sad and repugnant a concept as that may be.
It's absolutely false to suggest that a significant number of HK lawyers/barristers are foreigners. The vast majority of lawyers in Hong Kong are HK Chinese. But this issue is being raised as a diversionary tactic. Where lawyers come from is not pertinent to this situation. What is at question is The Basic Law of Hong Kong to which Mainland China has agreed to uphold. Some commentators would like to suggest that this law is somehow tainted because of foreign influence. The Basic Law is what it is - it has been accepted by HKers as satisfactory and Beijing has signed off on it. There's no point trying to disparage in this way.
Hong Kong judges, unlike those in the United Kingdom, do not swear loyalty to the Sovereign. Under their judicial oath they bind themselves to “uphold the Basic Law”. The State Council paper was perfectly correct to say that Hong Kong judges "have on their shoulders the responsibility of correctly understanding and implementing the Basic Law". Its worth remembering that the Court of Final Appeal got off on the wrong foot in that respect in the 1999 right of abode case when they made the absurd - and unconstitutional - power-grabbing claim that their decisions on the Basic Law bound the National People's Congress.That judgment was so aberrant that it was unsurprisingly overruled by an interpretation of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. Although the Standing Committee’s decision was clearly constitutionally legitimate and justified, it attracted histrionic and unfair domestic and international criticism of China due to the top judges' quixotic attempt to extend the power of the Court of Final Appeal.
Michael Scott
the sun also rises
No Hong Kong people with sense,
will compromise with such a White Paper,
which intends to take away our
much-valued judicial independence which
safeguards our 'rule of law' !
Never will our judges bow to pressure from
the North to listen to the will of the authorities
before handing down their verdict.
No verdicts will be subject to patriotism !
None at all ! Not to say quite a lot of judges
in the Final Court or Appeal Court are non-Chinese
who will never have to be loyal to the PRC !
Right ?
That's it man, most high ranking law makers in Hong Kong are foreigners. They will never be patriotic and are only there for the money. They need to be weeded out.
And replaced by good communists? You need to be doused in Round up, communist troll.




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