President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom Robert Reed and his deputy, Patrick Hodge preside over an appeals
President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom Robert Reed and his deputy, Patrick Hodge preside over an appeals case concerning an individual held in contempt in Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal today.
After protests relating to the National Security Law for Hong Kong other temporary judges resigned from their posts amid debates that the judiciary was no longer independent. The justices had previously stated their intentions to resign if they found the same.
Foreign temporary judges serve on Hong Kong’s court in order to increase its prestige and develop the city’s law separately from China’s. A judicial exodus by foreign judges would be symbolic of an erosion of judicial independence, and thus an erosion in Hong Kong’s autonomy.
The judges’ decision to continue serving paints the UK as a continued supporter of Hong Kong’s autonomy. However, as the first National Security Law cases reach the bench, Beijing will likely exert pressure on the outcomes, making a judicial exodus more likely. This decision by the justices serves as a fragile step towards continued judicial independence in Hong Kong, because ongoing efforts by the Chinese government to encroach upon the city’s autonomy could easily lead to the judges’ resignation.
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