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Wednesday June 19, 2024

Hong Kong rule of law ‘profoundly compromised’: UK judge

By AFP
June 11, 2024
Judges wearing robes and horsehair wigs attend a ceremony held to mark the opening of the legal year in Hong Kong on January 22, 2024. — AFP
Judges wearing robes and horsehair wigs attend a ceremony held to mark the opening of the legal year in Hong Kong on January 22, 2024. — AFP

LONDON: The rule of law in Hong Kong is “profoundly compromised” in areas of the law where the government has strong opinions, a British judge who recently resigned from the top Hong Kong appeals court said on Monday.

Jonathan Sumption is one of two British judges who resigned last week shortly after a landmark verdict in which 14 prominent democratic activists were convicted for subversion amid a national security crackdown on dissent.

The resignations have damaged the idea that having foreign jurists on Hong Kong’s top court helps protects the rule of law and the city’s international image.

Writing in the Financial Times, Sumption said judges’ freedom had been curtailed by security laws, that China was willing to reverse court decisions if it didn’t like them, and that Hong Kong authorities were paranoid about political dissent.

“Hong Kong, once a vibrant and politically diverse community is slowly becoming a totalitarian state. The rule of law is profoundly compromised in any area about which the government feels strongly,” Sumption wrote in an editorial publish on the Financial Times website.

Britain, which handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997, has said security law that punishes offences like subversion with up to life imprisonment has been used to curb dissent and freedoms. Chinese and Hong Kong authorities say the law is necessary and has brought stability.