Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is considering barring British judges from sitting on the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal.
The announcement came in the publication of the official Six-Monthly Report on Hong Kong which is presented to the UK Parliament by the British Foreign Secretary.
In the report, the Foreign Secretary writes: “Together with the Lord Chancellor, I have begun consultations with Lord Reed, President of the UK Supreme Court, concerning when to review whether it continues to be appropriate for British judges to sit as non-permanent judges on the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal.”
This announcement appears to be in response to the controversy surrounding Lord Hodge, deputy president of the Supreme Court, being appointed to the Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong after the departure of an Australian judge amid concerns over China’s draconian national security law.
32 UK parliamentarians from across the political parties previously signed a letter addressed to the Lord Chancellor calling for a “clear and unambiguous statement to be made as a matter of urgency” regarding the appointment of Lord Hodge to the highest court in Hong Kong. Please find the letter below.
Whilst judges from the UK and the commonwealth have historically sat part-time on Hong-Kong’s courts, Lord Hodge’s recent appointment proved controversial as he was accused of adding legitimacy to China’s recent crackdown on freedom and democracy in Hong Kong by accepting a position on the city’s highest court.
China’s national security laws effectively ban peaceful protest, freedom of expression and the freedom to criticise the Hong Kong and Chinese authorities. The British government has declared several breaches of the legally-binding Sino-British Joint Declaration and critics have claimed that Lord Hodge might be called upon to rule in cases where Hongkongers are standing up for their individual freedoms.
There have been numerous human rights abuses by the authorities in Hong Kong since the start of the 2019 protests and the Six-Monthly Report references a separate inquiry into possible human rights abuses of humanitarian and medical workers by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Hong Kong.
Johnny Song, spokesperson for grassroots campaign group Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong, said: “We welcome this announcement from Dominic Raab but his words need to be backed up by action so that British judges are no longer legitimising the Hong Kong authorities and the draconian national security laws by sitting in the city’s courts.
“The justice system in Hong Kong has been reduced to a shell of its previous self. We must abandon the naïve optimism that foreign judges could serve as universal gatekeepers for justice; playing a part in the oppressive Hong Kong regime’s illusion make them complicit to the vast abuse perpetrated in the city.
“Removing these British judges would demonstrate to Hongkongers that the UK understands the gravity of the situation, and highlights the issue to the rest of the world.”