Hong Kong’s judges have become accustomed to being the target of savage criticism, vile abuse and chilling threats. The trend, driven by the city’s political divisions, has not relented despite frequent warnings it poses an imminent threat to the rule of law. The recent death threats targeting a magistrate and his family are the most serious yet. The culprits must be swiftly brought to justice. Their actions are outrageous and cannot be tolerated. With many politically sensitive cases still before the courts, more must be done to protect the judiciary and ensure judges can continue to apply the law fairly, independently and safely. Chief Magistrate Victor So Wai-tak was the victim of criminal intimidation after he remanded media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying in custody pending trial for alleged fraud. The case is controversial and the decision attracted criticism. So is one of six magistrates approved by the chief executive to handle national security law cases. A telephone call was received by his office at West Kowloon Court. A man shouted “I will bomb you, your wife and your son to death” and then hung up. The threat is not only a terrifying attack on So, who was just doing his job, but a challenge to the city’s judicial system and the rule of law. The secretary for justice and Beijing’s liaison office condemned the attack . This is welcome. The governments have an important role to play in standing up for judges whenever they are attacked, regardless of which political camp their ruling has angered. Sadly, the threats made to So are just the latest in a disturbing series of attempts to intimidate the judiciary. The courts have become a regular target in recent years as they handle cases with political overtones. Last year’s civil unrest and the imposition of a national security law have led to many such cases. Judges and magistrates have come under fire from one political camp or the other as they make these sensitive decisions. The criticism is usually motivated by dissatisfaction with the outcome of the case, with little if any consideration of the legal reasoning on which it was based. Another magistrate, accused of favouring anti-government protesters, was branded a “dog judge” in graffiti scrawled on two buildings in Kowloon City in October. Entrances to court buildings were set on fire during last year’s violence. Members of the judiciary have faced multiple allegations of political bias. The courts decide cases on legal, not political grounds. They must be free to decide cases without being subjected to pressure. The government, Beijing, the legal profession, politicians, and society as a whole must reject all attempts to put pressure on judges and magistrates. Hong Kong’s independent judiciary is a fundamental pillar of our society. Without it, Hong Kong’s future is bleak.