Hong Kong top court trials live broadcasting civil appeals to uphold judicial transparency News
Magnet larry, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Hong Kong top court trials live broadcasting civil appeals to uphold judicial transparency

The Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal (CFA) conducted a live broadcast on a civil appeal hearing on Wednesday. The live-broadcasting measures echoed the principle of judicial transparency the Chief Justice of the CFA Andrew Cheung proposed at the ceremonial opening of the legal year 2023.

The trial was of a civil appeal brought by MK, seeking to challenge the Director of Legal Aid’s decision to withdraw legal aid. MK had sought legal aid to challenge the constitutionality of denying the right to marriage to same-sex couples under the Hong Kong law. The legal aid was later withdrawn. Currently, the Legal Aid Regulations impose on the aided party’s solicitor or counsel a duty to report abuse of legal aid. On Wednesday’s hearing, the CFA was tasked to consider whether the duty abrogated the constitutionally protected right to legal privilege and if so, whether such abrogation is a necessary implication.

Local media reported that the live broadcasting operated smoothly as the audience could hear the judges’ and counsels’ speeches clearly. Senior counsels for both parties agreed that the live broadcasting did not constitute a significant difference to them as the court tried live broadcasting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another live broadcasting will take place on January 16 in a case of land disputes. The CFA will hear submissions on whether the external walls of a building constitute a reserving part in the deed of mutual covenant in that case.

In January 2023, Cheung stated that open justice is key to maintaining public confidence in the judicial system and upholding the rule of law. He noted the importance of live broadcasting as a tool for public education on the judicial process. He believed the live broadcasting of judicial proceedings would reduce the occasions where the public makes uninformed and inaccurate comments about judicial proceedings. He also emphasised the importance of due administration of justice and noted that not all proceedings, such as criminal trials, are “inherently suitable” for live broadcasting.