Non-permanent judge at Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal, Brenda Hale, will be the first British judge to leave the bench since the implementation of the national security law last June.
This came as concerns are starting to grow regarding the role of UK judges in the SAR, who sit on Hong Kong’s top court due to Britain’s historical links with the territory.
But they were criticised for giving a veneer of respectability to the legal system in Hong Kong in the wake of the clampdown on human rights as the security law is seen as a wholesale breach of the 1997 handover agreement between London and Beijing.
“The jury is out on how they will be able to operate the new national security law. There are all sorts of question marks up in the air,” Hale said.
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As her appointment as a non-permanent judge in Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal will end this July, it is expected that she will be offered another stint, but she said: “I don’t wish to be reappointed.”
Hale explained she does not want to be reappointed as she is unable to predict when she can board a flight to Hong Kong.
She also acknowledged that there were serious concerns about the national security law, but argued that the remaining foreign judges were “keeping an eye on what’s going on there”.
Other British judicial figures on the bench include the president of the Supreme Court, Lord Robert Reed, as well as Lord David Neuberger, Lord Nicholas Phillips and Lord Jonathan Sumption.
Reed earlier said senior London figures said he should quit, as the UK said it is considering withdrawing British judges from the bench of Hong Kong’s top court.
But Sumption refuted that withdrawal of British judges has nothing to do with judicial independence and is merely a political boycott.