Two British judges give up their seats on the Hong Kong Supreme Court in protest against the tightened security law in Hong Kong. They say they do not want their presence to be used to legitimize undemocratic measures.
The highest court of the metropolis has fourteen members: four from Hong Kong itself, the rest from other parts of the British Commonwealth. This arrangement was agreed when the former British crown colony was returned to China in 1997. This was to ensure that the rule of law would continue to exist under Chinese rule.
Supreme Court Justice Robert Reed and his second husband Patrick Hodge believe that the tightened security law introduced after protests in 2020 undermines the guarantees. Critics say Beijing has used the law to make Opposition impossible in Hong Kong: many dissidents have been imprisoned or fled, civil rights organizations have surfaced and the press has been stifled.
“I do not want to give the impression that I support a government that erodes political freedoms and freedom of expression,” Reed said in a statement. He quit his job with Hodge yesterday.
The British Foreign Secretary supports the judges. “Freedom and democracy have been systematically dismantled in Hong Kong. Since this law was introduced, the authorities have restricted freedom of expression, the Free Press and the right of Assembly.”
“We have reached a tipping point. If the British judges stay, we legitimize oppression.”
Four other overseas Supreme Court justices, from Canada and Australia, remain on. One of them says the Hong Kong judiciary is still independent and “perhaps the last bastion of democracy” in Hong Kong. The other judges of the court, all British, have not yet commented on the departure of their colleagues.
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam says the judges have been politically pressured and speaks of political manipulation. She further says she regrets Reed and Hodge’s decision.