Cheng hits out at MP's 'absurd' comments

Local | Michael Shum 20 Oct 2021

Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng yesterday hit back at a British MP for having called on the UK authorities to remove British judges from Hong Kong.

In an open letter, Cheng said Hong Kong's judicial independence is based on the "solid infrastructure" that has been laid down in the basic law, and that the national security law clearly stipulates the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents.

Cheng's remarks came after Britain's parliament member Alistair Carmichael wrote an article published by The Times on October 14 calling for the removal of British judges from the SAR, alleging the national security law violates human rights.

In an open letter written to The Times, Cheng rebutted the "absurd and misleading comments" on Hong Kong's legal system.

"Judicial independence is premised on the solid infrastructure that has been laid down in the basic law," Cheng said. "All judges are required to administer justice without fear or favor."

She also said the national security law, implemented in June last year, has clearly specified the elements of each offense, which has "the same standard of proof just like any other criminal offences."

The rights and freedoms of Hong Kong people are not absolute and may be subject to restrictions prescribed by law necessarily in the interests of national security, said Cheng.

"Similar provisions are commonly found under the national security laws in foreign jurisdictions. It is appalling to see that some politicians have deliberately vilified it in an attempt to mislead the international community," she said.

"The national security law does not in any way affect judicial independence. The appellate system in Hong Kong ensures that justice is properly administered and due process is observed."

Carmichael, co-chairman of the all-party parliamentary group for Hong Kong, has said that the president of Britain's Supreme Court as well as the Foreign Secretary should remove British judges from Hong Kong.

That is because the presence of British judges in Hong Kong courts lends a false veneer of respectability to the justice system that is no longer just, said Carmichael.

He cited the exodus of thousands of Hong Kong protesters and the recent early retirement of former district judge Sham Siu-man, who will move to the United Kingdom with his family after acquitting defendants in two rulings and being "vilified by the city's pro-Beijing media."

As Hong Kong judges are joining the exodus, it is another milestone reached, marking the final nail in the coffin for the territory's independent court, Carmichael said.

He also said the national security law is a "gross violation of human rights" that undermines the basic law - Hong Kong's mini-constitution - adding that it has also been applied retroactively, with defendants being held without bail and special judges being assigned to the cases.

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