Beijing and its allies in Hong Kong have been advocating “judicial reform” for a while now. To that, they may add “legal reform”. All that has come after what is effectively “a legislative reform”, in relation to the one-year extension of the current legislative session and the disqualification of four pan-democratic legislators . Pre-screening and disqualification will be from now on an integral part of any Legco election or by-election. From the legislature to the courts, the city’s entire legal system is in the cross hairs of the central government. The common law tradition is being slowly rolled back as the legal system will be converging with that of the mainland in the coming years. Foreign governments and legal specialists, as well as local opposition, may huff and puff, but the reforms are inevitable and irresistible. What’s the difference between judicial and legal reforms? Judicial reform targets local courts and their judges. Quite simply, local judges’ rulings on politically sensitive cases have been too erratic and unpredictable to Beijing’s liking. No ‘outside reform’ of Hong Kong legal system needed, Exco member says It’s unclear how Beijing plans on reforming the local judiciary, but what Zhang Xiaoming, deputy director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, called standards of “patriotism” at a legal forum last week would presumably be applied to judges in future. Meanwhile, legal reform, according to former security chief and New People’s Party lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, aims to close loopholes in the already draconian national security law imposed by the central government this summer. That may mean the introduction by the Hong Kong government of a local security law under Article 23 of the Basic Law, she said during an online debate with former US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs Daniel Russel this week. The Hong Kong government already hinted at future Article 23 legislation during the summer as officials prepared the public for the new national security law. However, Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu has offered no time frame while saying officials needed to see how the new security law worked out first. The political situation, though, is vastly different today from the 2000s, when any mention of Article 23 legislation was practically taboo. Now, the opposition has been neutered and any protests risk inviting charges under the national security law. Beijing has laid the groundwork. The local government just needs to pull the trigger.