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Global Times

Foreign judges not excluded from national security cases: HK's Chief Justice

Global Times

By Zhang Hui Source:Global Times Published: 2020/7/3 15:08:40

Foreign judges not excluded from national security cases: HK's Chief Justice

Judges of foreign nationalities will not be excluded when Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam appoints judges to hear cases and appeals involving the national security law for Hong Kong, said Geoffrey Ma Tao-li, the Chief Justice of Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal.

Lam has appointed six judges to deal with national security cases, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government said on Friday, without naming the judges.

Ma said in a statement on Thursday that foreign judges could be appointed in Hong Kong in accordance with the Basic Law, including Non-Permanent Judges of the Court of Final Appeal, whose contributions to Hong Kong have repeatedly been acknowledged by the Chief Executive.

In his statement, Ma confirmed certain principles regarding the designation of judges and operations of the courts in handling cases under the national security law for Hong Kong. He said that under Article 44 of the national security law for Hong Kong, the Chief Executive shall appoint judges at each court level to handle cases and appeals in relation to the law.

The judges will be chosen based on the Basic Law. Therefore, all appointed judges will come from the existing ranks of the judiciary, Ma said.

The appointed judges, like all judges, will be appointed on the basis of their judicial and professional qualifications, which should be the only criteria relevant to their appointment. That means judges should not be chosen based on political considerations, Ma said.

However, some lawyers in Hong Kong believe the chosen judges for cases involving national security should only be given to judges of Chinese nationality.

Kennedy Wong Ying-ho, a solicitor at the Supreme Court of Hong Kong, told the Global Times on Friday that the city's current judicial institutions include many judges with foreign nationalities, but cases related to national security should only be handled by those of Chinese nationality to avoid a conflict of interest.

"For example, if police arrest a British national for allegedly spying in Hong Kong, it would make sense to not involve British judges in the trial," Wong said.

Wong believes the statement was only Ma's personal opinion, as the Chief Executive has the final say.

Tian Feilong, a Hong Kong affairs and legal expert at Beihang University in Beijing, told the Global Times that not excluding foreign judges does not mean foreign judges will have the same opportunities and treatment as Chinese judges in dealing with cases involving national security.

In fact, the judges' loyalty needs to be looked at more thoroughly than ordinary cases, as foreign judges will be faced with tough choices and possible conflicting interests, Tian said.

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