Wednesday, December 2, 2015   

Abusive attacks 'worrying'

Kelly Ip

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

An increase in abuse directed at courts and judges because of decisions are a great concern, Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung says.

And he warns that the Department of Justice will take steps if necessary to defend judicial independence.

Speaking at the opening of the legal year yesterday, Yuen said that amid "the usually healthy discussion of judicial decisions and judges during the past year, one sign of concern is the emergence of abusive attacks."

Some people even indicated they would compile a list of judges they considered politically biased and request their removal, Yuen said, adding: "However well-intended their subjective motives might be, such conduct should not be encouraged."

He referred to then chief justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang saying in 2000 that it was the responsibility of the government to explain and defend judicial independence when the courts were under unwarranted attack.

Last month, about 20 member of Pro-Beijing group Caring Hong Kong Power protested outside the Court of Final Appeal after a ruling that a seven- year residency requirement to apply for Comprehensive Social Security Assistance is unconstitutional.

They accused the court of neglecting the intent behind the Basic Law and demanded that all judges be retrained. Caring Hong Kong Power spokesman Tang Wai-keung did not respond to Yuen's remarks directly but said members can be baffled by rulings. "But if it is the court's ruling we will have to respect it even if we d
isagree with it," he said.

Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li said he had not noticed abusive attacks, though "people commenting on the judicial system would be healthy for society. It means more have become interested in our system."

Chief Justice Ma also said a court focuses on legal issues and any comments will not affect judges.

On cases concerning social, economic and politics going to court, he said there were certainly more judicial review cases after the handover in 1997.

"While these may be the reasons certain cases go to court, the approach is to deal with legal issues which arise."

Yuen also disclosed yesterday that the Department of Justice will take over the former French Mission Building after the Court of Final Appeal moves to No 8 Jackson Road - formerly the Supreme Court until 1978 and converted for use as the Legislative Council building in 1985.

"This will fit in well with the former Central Government Offices being used as the home for the Department of Justice and law-related organizations as well as enabling the whole area to become the legal hub of Hong Kong," he said.

Chief Justice Ma also looked to the future of Hong Kong's legal system and facilities.

He said Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and senior officials were receptive to a proposal to discuss the question of more space for the Judiciary and ensuring adequate resources.

"Our courts remain busy and our judges will continue to deal with important legal issues and challenges having a significant impact on the community," he said.

On "practical needs of the Judiciary," the chief justice said, there is the manpower situation and "whether there is a need to increase the number of judges in Hong Kong. By any standards, our Judiciary is a relatively small one given the volume and complexity of cases with which we deal."

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