Hong Kong's judiciary must be vigorously defended against any politicisation or other encroachment on its independence, leading members of the legal community have told an event marking the 60th anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The call came during a panel discussion on the rule of law on Friday. Panellists, including US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and Hong Kong Justice of Appeal Frank Stock, were full of praise for the city's system, yet warned that it was something not to be taken for granted. Former Bar Association chief Gladys Li SC said it was concerning to note recent comments by visiting Vice-President Xi Jinping about the judiciary being more supportive of the executive and its policies. Those comments were especially worrying given the directive issued to mainland courts always to bear in mind the cause of the Communist Party as well as the constitution and the people's intent. 'In our system there is no place for the consideration of the party's cause,' Ms Li said. '[Yet] we know we are not insulated from the policies of our dominant sovereign nation.' There was in effect nothing in international law that could stop the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress rewriting Hong Kong's laws any way it chose, so it was important to prevent any chipping away at the rights and freedoms Hong Kong people enjoyed. 'As lawyers we have a special obligation to stand up and defend robustly the rule of law in Hong Kong,' Ms Li said. She challenged critics of the judiciary's independence to suggest what other system would suit the city better. 'Is it the one over the border? Would they prefer that?' Mr Justice Stock expanded on Justice Kennedy's observation that while many people talk about the rule of law as being 'a good thing', few bothered to define it. As such it was something that people brought up in an environment where it existed could easily take for granted. 'There is a need for us as a community at large to go back to square one and examine the fundamentals and to ... obey the [maxim] that we must be slaves to the law in order to be free,' Mr Justice Stock said. 'An effective understanding of the rule of law is the bedrock for the effective preservation of rights.' He noted the growth of judicial review in Hong Kong and around the world and acknowledged that sometimes it would bring the judiciary into conflict with the desires of the executive or legislative branches. Judicial review is the process of courts reviewing action by public bodies. 'There's no question that judicial review has been a burgeoning feature of Hong Kong's judicial landscape in the last 15 years or so,' Mr Justice Stock said. 'But that's not unique to Hong Kong. 'The fact that our decisions may be unpopular is not a matter we can allow to influence our decisions.'