It is not surprising the US Foreign Relations Committee panel on East Asia is concerned about the dropping of Sir Joseph Hotung and Eleanor Ling Ching-man from the Judicial Officers' Recommendation Committee. Because there has been no public explanation for the changes to this important body, their departures are bound to appear politically motivated, and aimed at altering the balance of opinion in the legal administration of the future Special Administrative Region. Given the attention now being paid to Hong Kong by America, any apparently negative move to democracy and the independent rule of law is bound to be noted. But this case has further ramifications. The independence of the Judiciary is fundamental to the future of Hong Kong, and anything seen to be affecting that is bound to cause anxiety. Nor can the legal aspects of our future be seen as a purely internal matter. International firms are based in Hong Kong in part because of their faith in the law and the integrity of the judicial system. Sir Joseph made a donation to the Frontier Party, Ms Ling is a Jardines director. But the only reason for their sacking, according to a provisional legislator, is because it was inappropriate to have three business people on the committee. The trouble with this explanation is that they were replaced by the chairman of the Stock Exchange and a businessman involved in the garment industry. The explanation does not hold water, but no other reason has been forthcoming. If it was felt that Sir Joseph's political donation and Ms Ling's position at Jardines made them inappropriate members of the committee, that should be clearly spelled out. The people of Hong Kong, and the companies that do business here, have a right to know the basis on which such important decisions are made. If they are not given an explanation, it is inevitable that suspicions will be aroused. The territory needs as much transparency as it can get to buttress its confidence through the handover period, and nowhere more so than on issues concerning the legal system.