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  • Oct 20, 2014
  • Updated: 12:21pm
Beijing White Paper 2014
NewsHong Kong
JUDICIARY

Judges don’t need to be patriots, says former top judge Andrew Li

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 August, 2014, 4:09am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 August, 2014, 5:04pm
 

Former top judge Andrew Li Kwok-nang has expressed reservations about the view expressed in Beijing's recent white paper on the "one country, two systems" formula that Hong Kong judges have a "basic political requirement" to love the country.

In a commentary published in the South China Morning Post today, Li said public concerns raised over Hong Kong's judicial independence, following the issue of the State Council document on June 10, were justified.

"What is of great concern is the requirement in the white paper that judges should be patriotic," he wrote.

In Hong Kong, Li said, patriotism had been widely perceived as being "supportive of and cooperating with" the Beijing and Hong Kong governments, and protecting their interests.

"But under the principle of judicial independence, judges should not be pro or anti anyone or anything," he wrote. Judges were expected to be fair, impartial and faithful only to the law.

It is the first time the retired chief justice has aired his opinions in public on the white paper, which asserted Beijing's "comprehensive jurisdiction" over the city.

Controversially, the document declared that judges were "administrators" and as such had a basic political requirement to love the country.

Fears that the city's judicial independence and rule of law might be jeopardised prompted a record 1,800 lawyers to take part in a silent march on June 27 - despite an assurance by Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung that the paper "carries no intention to impose requirements other than those in the Basic Law on judges".

Critics say the paper has wrongly categorised judges as among those who "administrate" Hong Kong.

"This is unfortunate and is unsuitable," Li said. "Any concern arising from the use of the word 'administrate' in English should be dispelled."

Li also gave his take on the paper's suggestion that judges had a responsibility for "correctly understanding and implementing the Basic Law".

Judges were required to swear an oath to uphold the city's mini-constitution, and that was a sufficient and satisfactory arrangement, he said.

In the same article, Li called for rational discussion and pragmatism in thrashing out electoral reform to deliver universal suffrage in the 2017 chief executive election, though he said he would not engage in the political debate.

"I am worried about the increasing polarisation in society today," he wrote. "I hope that all involved will wisely and pragmatically engage in the art of compromise, which is the essence of politics and is in the best interests of the community."

 

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This article is now closed to comments

captam
Li, as an ex Chief Justice, would not get away with making a statement like this in the United Kingdom , where judges are required to swear an oath their allegiance to the sovereign, representing the state.
Patriotism, no matter how it is prescribed in words, is a prerequisite for the judiciary and the highest elected officials in all countries with the exception of those ruled by religious fanatics or war lords.
And at Li's statement "Judges were required to swear an oath to uphold the city's mini-constitution, and that was a sufficient and satisfactory arrangement".
Sorry but its not sufficient and satisfactory because it does not provide adequately for the security of the state.
It might have done, had Hong Kong residents and their legislators kept their side of the bargain and implemented the requirements under Article 23 of the Basic law for the enactment of security legislation protecting the state, BUT THEY HAVE FAILED TO DO SO.
This serious omission warrants the CPG's insistence on emphasizing patriotism for our highest officials.
Li, as a trained lawyer, should have recognized this.
kctony
So you can't define "patriotism" and willing to accept whatever Beijing's implicit definition?
williechow
"I am worried about the increasing polarisation in society today," he wrote. "I hope that all involved will wisely and pragmatically engage in the art of compromise, which is the essence of politics and is in the best interests of the community."
Seems like Li just added to the polarization. Beijing said that judges need to be patriots and Li said they don't need to be. And that's Li's art of compromise?
I can just see what would happen if the U.S. Chief Justice said that he is not a patriot. Very likely would be impeached the next day.
kctony
Where in the oath sworn by a US Chief Justice says he needs to be a patriot?
So far I have not heard one pro-government camp defining the word patriot. What's holding them?
A patriot judge, eh? Let's say in a case Foreign Company (oh, HK too) vs Bank of China, What confidence can the public have that the patriot judge be impartial?
caractacus
Mongkok_Wong and pslhk (aka Pierce Lam the racist and worst poet in HK) are ignorant, racialist w a n k e r s.
China professes, after 2,500 years of reliance on the Confucian principle of trusting to the morality of men rather than law, that it needs the rule of law. The absence of law, objectively and fairly applied, has been one of the main causes of its history of repeated disasters of arbitrary, corrupt, brutal rulers. China has not progressed because of the corruption of its leaders. Today's Communist Party (communist only in name) is simply a reincarnation of the Imperial system.
They are too stupid to understand that the law has to stand above the faults of men (and women) and rely on logic and intelligence.
China as a long way to go before it understands the full implications of the rule of law, which is to give justice available to everyone no matter how poor or powerless.
pslhk
Thank you caractacus for the comment
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RoL is "to give justice available to everyone"?
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Please educate us with your learned idea of justice.
dienw
The onanis m reference is particularly appropriate, especially to pslhk. His posts are very depressing but also a reminder to all of some people's hideously warped thinking on issues of fundamental importance to Hong Kong and indeed China itself.
blue
Mongkok_Wong you're an imbecile.
53af638f-6a84-44b2-821e-4c4e0a320968
Only through political independence can hk judges and hk flourish. The more Beijing attempts to change this reality the more it damages hk and it's own potential bright future. Xi and his boys could really be a Deng Xiao Peng or more if they could figure out a way to empower judges in ccp china.
wattielo
Judges are there to judge. If they are only faithful to the law, they are machines! I don't see a contradictin between loving the country and being just. When someone says he is fair, impartial, and everything, is he also not promoting certain values? If so, in whose interests those values serve?

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