Former chief justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang has spoken out in defence of judicial independence in Hong Kong and called on Beijing to refrain from overriding judgments of the top court. Li, who presided over the judiciary from 1997 to 2010, also rebutted a suggestion from mainland scholars to remove overseas judges from the city's Court of Final Appeal after 2047, arguing their presence should be "a lasting feature". His remarks, in an article written for today's Post , come two weeks after Beijing's liaison office director Zhang Xiaoming stoked worries within legal and political circles by dismissing the notion of separation of powers for the city and claiming the chief executive transcended all three branches of government, including the judiciary. Read more: ‘Hong Kong leader is above the executive branch, legislature and courts’, says Beijing’s liaison chief "Under the rule of law, no one, however high his position, is above the law," Li wrote. "In these uncertain times, it is all the more important that the rule of law with an independent judiciary should remain an unshakeable foundation of our society." The former top judge previously objected to the National People's Congress Standing Committee's interpretation of the Basic Law in 1999 that overrode the top court's judgment on right-of-abode cases. "Although it would be legally valid and binding, such an interpretation would have an adverse effect on judicial independence in Hong Kong," he said. But the central authorities were at odds with Hongkongers on this issue, he noted. "I believe that this view is widely shared in Hong Kong. However, my understanding is that it is not shared by the authorities in Beijing. They consider that an interpretation even after a court judgment … should not adversely affect judicial independence in Hong Kong." Paul Shieh Wing-tai SC, former chairman of the Bar Association, echoed Li's concerns. "If the mainland view is based solely on the fact that it is 'in accordance with the law', then I do not agree," Shieh said. "'In accordance with the law' is necessary but not sufficient." As to what might happen to Hong Kong after 2047, Li expected to see the stage being set in the next 10 to 15 years for extensive discussions. "I believe that it will have to be settled in the early 2030s," he wrote.