Published: 12:57, June 11, 2024 | Updated: 15:40, June 11, 2024
Hong Kong SAR govt rebuts ex-CFA judge’s claim of political pressure
By Wang Zhan
This Jan 13, 2024, photo shows the Department of Justice in Central, Hong Kong. (GAO JINAN / CHINA DAILY)

HONG KONG – The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government on Tuesday strongly disagreed with personal opinions made by Lord Jonathan Sumption, a departing non-permanent judge of the city’s top appeals court, on the city's rule of law and independent judicial power.

There is absolutely no truth that the HKSAR courts are under any political pressure from the central authorities or the HKSAR government in the adjudication of national security cases or indeed any case of any nature; or that there is any decline in the rule of law in Hong Kong, a government spokesperson said.

“Anyone who suggested otherwise, no matter what the reasons or motives may be, would be utterly wrong, totally baseless, and must be righteously refuted,” the spokesman said in a statement.

The statement came after Lord Sumption, who recently resigned as a non-permanent judge of the Court of Final Appeal of the HKSAR, published an opinion piece headlined “The rule of law in Hong Kong is in grave danger” on the Financial Times website.

READ MORE: HK leaders express regret over two UK judges’ resignation from CFA

“The government will not comment otherwise on any ongoing criminal proceedings as commented by Lord Sumption, but has to point out that regarding the case of conspiracy to commit subversion, the Court of First Instance held that the Legislative Council members had the duty to examine and approve budgets and government public expenditure proposals based on their merits,” said the SAR government spokesman.

This is how it was in the past, how it is at present, and how it will be in future. The rule of law in Hong Kong is strong and will not change.

John Lee Ka-chiu, Chief Executive, HKSAR

If anyone twisted the Court's judgment and exerted pressure on the Court of Appeal in attempt to interfere with the judicial process, the SAR government must not acquiesce it and must set the record straight, the spokesman added.

Stressing that the HKSAR government has never and will not allow anyone to interfere with the prosecutions of the Department of Justice and trials by the court, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu said the SAR government has always respected and safeguarded their independent prosecutorial power and independent adjudication power.

The DoJ’s prosecutorial decisions has not been subject to any interference and the court has always exercised its independent judicial power without any interference, he said.

“This is how it was in the past, how it is at present, and how it will be in future. The rule of law in Hong Kong is strong and will not change,” said the CE.

All countries in the world are duty bound to safeguard their national security, and the HKSAR, as an inalienable part of the People's Republic of China, is no exception, he said.

“When the HKSAR discharges its constitutional duty in this respect, what we demand is fair and objective treatment as well as respect from others.”

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The national security in the HKSAR cannot and must not be 'second class'; it must be given the same respect and its lawfulness is the same as that in any other country, he said.

The HKSAR will continue to steadfastly discharge the duty to safeguard national security, he said.

“We are confident that well-informed members of the international community will afford the HKSAR an objective and impartial appraisal,” added Lee.

Responding to Lord Sumption's article, Chief Justice Andrew Cheung of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal said that judges at every level adhere to the judicial oath to decide cases impartially and independently, in accordance with the law and evidence.

“Any suggestion that their decisions have been or may be influenced by extraneous considerations, political or otherwise, is a serious allegation that must be duly substantiated and should not be lightly made," he said in a statement on Tuesday.

He pointed out that a tension often exists between protection of fundamental rights and safeguarding national security, both of which the Hong Kong Judiciary is firmly committed to doing.

“Striking the right balance in individual cases can be difficult and outcomes controversial at times. It is one thing to disagree with a court's decision, but it is quite another to suggest that fundamental rights have been compromised because of political concerns,” he added.