Foreign secretary Dominic Raab is considering plans to remove British judges from Hong Kong’s high court in response to the region’s freedom of speech clampdown.
Raab wrote in a new Foreign Office report that he and justice secretary Robert Buckland were reviewing “whether it continues to be appropriate for British judges to sit as non-permanent judges on the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal”.
Raab has said on multiple occasions that new national security legislation imposed on Hong Kong is a breach of the Sino-British treaty signed by the UK and China when the region’s handover was organised.
The laws make it illegal to criticise the Chinese government and prohibits things like the mocking the Chinese national anthem.
The legislation also removes the independence of the Hong Kong judiciary, with the pro-Beijing chief executive of Hong Kong Carrie Lam able to handpick judges for all cases charged under the national security laws.
The foreign secretary said in the new report, out today, that the new laws were “already reducing the extent to which the people of Hong Kong are able to exercise their fundamental rights and freedoms”.
“It has damaged freedom of expression in academia, schools and libraries, including through the removal of textbooks and other books containing certain political content,” he said.
“It has been used as the basis for a raid on a leading Hong Kong newspaper and the arrest of its owner.”
Removing British judges from the Hong Kong high court would mark a further break in relations with the former colony and the fourth punitive action by the UK government in response to the security legislation.
The UK is allowing more than 2m Hong Kongers to immigrate to the UK on bespoke long-term visas and Raab has banned sales of arms into the region.
The UK’s extradition treaty with Hong Kong was also cancelled earlier this year.