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Occupy Central

Denouncing judges as enemies of the people is just wrong, Britain’s top diplomat in Hong Kong warns

Andrew Heyn compares British Prime Minister Theresa May’s rhetoric to chief executive candidates

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 March, 2017, 4:05pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 March, 2017, 10:57pm

Britain’s top diplomat in Hong Kong has hit out at critics of the city’s judges and stressed the importance of the rule of law in the wake of a controversial court decision that saw seven police officers jailed for assaulting a protester in 2014.

Just 10 days before the chief executive election, consul general Andrew Heyn described social polarisation as a major challenge facing Hong Kong and its next leader.

“Like the UK Prime Minister, the next chief executive faces a formidable series of challenges,” he said

Heyn, who started in the role of consul general to Hong Kong and Macau almost half a year ago, pointed to recent attacks on the city’s judges as one such major challenge.

Judges take a kicking in various jurisdictions, including one in Hong Kong over jailing of seven police officers

District Court Judge David Dufton faced criticism after he sentenced seven police officers to two years jail last month for assaulting an Occupy protester.

“I spoke about this to Hong Kong Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen [Kwok-keung] a couple of weeks ago,” Heyn said.

“We both agreed that it is absolutely right that people voice dissent with court decisions if they disagree with them.

“What I believe is not right is to play the man not the ball,” he continued. “To indulge in personal attacks on the judges themselves, or to claim that the rule of law is broken because a judgement doesn’t go the way we think it should. To denounce the judges as enemies of the people – to me that cannot be right.”

He also compared British Prime Minister Theresa May’s political rhetoric to speeches made by candidates for the Hong Kong’s top job.

“I have been struck by how [her] themes are mirrored in the messages of all the chief executive candidates, who have been clear in their determination to address the issue of how to make sure our economies deliver for ordinary people,” he said. “And to mend fences in society.”

On Britain’s plan to exit the European Union, he said the UK’s secretary of state for international trade, Liam Fox, had agreed with Hong Kong officials to open preliminary discussions “at the appropriate time” regarding the removal of trade and investment barriers.

“Hong Kong does indeed remain a top priority issue in the UK,” Heyn said.

“When I was doing my briefing calls in London and preparing to take up this role... I was struck both by how deeply people in the UK care about Hong Kong, and about the depth and breadth of the agenda.”