British judges have resigned from Hong Kong’s highest court, in a move which has been welcomed by the foreign secretary and UK-based advocacy group Stand With Hong Kong (SWHK).
Two senior judges, Robert Reed and Patrick Hodge, submitted their resignation to the city’s Court of Final Appeal (HKCFA), saying their role was “no longer tenable” because of the tightening grip of China’s security law.
“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,” said Reed, who heads Britain’s top judicial body.
“Lord Hodge and I have accordingly submitted our resignations as non-permanent judges of the HKCFA with immediate effect.”
It follows sustained pressure from parliamentarians and campaigning groups, including the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Hong Kong.
Jane Song, a representative of SWHK, said the group strongly welcomed the move, adding that “For too long British judges have been lending a false veneer of respectability to a clearly broken justice system. The courts in Hong Kong have long ceased to be independent of China’s control, instead enforcing silence and compliance from citizens.
Hong Kong is no longer a free city and the rule of law no longer applies. We continue to call on legal professionals in the UK and other democratic common law judiciaries to refuse to endorse Hong Kong’s now broken judicial system, which the authorities is abusing it to suppress democracy in disguise.”
Beijing introduced the controversial security law in June 2020, which has seen a number of pro-democracy activists jailed and in exile, as well as newspapers such as Jimmy Lai-founded Apple Daily shutdown.
Media tycoon Lai was jailed for 14 months in April last year for attending a pro-democracy protest.
Foreign secretary Liz Truss said: “We have seen a systematic erosion of liberty and democracy in Hong Kong. Since the National Security Law was imposed, authorities have cracked down on free speech, the free press and free association.
“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.”