The UK government Wednesday announced that two of its Supreme Court judges will no longer sit on Hong Kong’s top court, citing a China-imposed national security law that cracks down on dissent.
In June 2020, China introduced a national security law after months of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. The law has drawn widespread criticism across Western countries, the UN, and pro-democracy politicians in Hong Kong, who say it has curtailed freedom of speech. In response, the Hong Kong government has said the law was necessary to maintain order after the pro-democracy demonstrations.
UK Supreme Court President Lord Robert Reed stated that he and Lord Patrick Hodge were resigning from their positions as non-permanent judges of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal (HKCFA) over the threat to civil freedoms following the national security law.
In a statement released by the UK’s Supreme Court, Lord Reed wrote: “I have concluded, in agreement with the government, that the judges of the Supreme Court cannot continue to sit in Hong Kong without appearing to endorse an administration which has departed from values of political freedom, and freedom of expression, to which the Justices of the Supreme Court are deeply committed.”
British Foreign Minister Liz Truss stated: “The situation has reached a tipping point where it is no longer tenable for British judges to sit on Hong Kong’s leading court, and would risk legitimising oppression”.
The Hong Kong Bar Association, in response to the resignation, released a statement expressing their regret towards the decision. It appealed to all non-permanent judges to stay and serve the people of Hong Kong “to collectively defend the rule of law and uphold judicial independence.”
Currently, 14 non-permanent judges remain at the HKCFA, 10 of whom are from other common law jurisdictions such as Canada and Australia.