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Future of foreign judges in Hong Kong uncertain due to security law: Report

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Asia | September 22, 2020 7:12:22 AM IST
The future of foreign jurists serving in Hong Kong is uncertain as foreign governments have started questioning the viability of sending judges in the semi-autonomous city following the imposition of the national security law, according to a report in South China Morning Post (SCMP).

"When the judiciaries and governments of their countries start questioning the viability of sending their top jurists to serve in Hong Kong while powerful local and mainland figures think they should have no role here in the first place, their days may be numbered," SCMP columnist Alex Lo writes in the article.

Beijing had imposed the national security law in Hong Kong in June targetting acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, with punishments of up to life in prison for the most serious offences.

The move came after months of social upheaval triggered by opposition to a now-withdrawn extradition bill but that morphed into wider demands, including universal suffrage.

The legislation, which came into effect on July 1, punishes what Beijing terms secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference with punishment ranging up to a life-term in prison.

Australian judge James Spigelman's recent resignation from Hong Kong court two years ahead of schedule should say a lot about what other top foreign judges and the governments of the countries they are from are thinking.

Justice Spigelman did not hide the reason for his departure and said it was over concerns regarding the controversial national security law.

At the moment, Australia, the UK, New Zealand and Canada -- all with a common law tradition -- provide non-permanent judges for the top court.

However, the president of the British Supreme Court in London, Lord Reed of Allermuir, has already hinted that its judges might not serve in Hong Kong if the new security law undermined the city's judicial independence.

"That would suit the leftists as well as some pro-establishment figures. They have long wanted a completely local Chinese judiciary. Having foreign judges was part of the guarantee of '50 years of no change' under the Basic Law and was intended to boost confidence in the independence of the local judiciary," Alex wrote.

Former Australian High Court chief justices Robert French and Murray Gleeson and former High Court judge William Gummow, are still serving on the top court. French has said he intends to stay. (ANI)

 
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