EXCLUSIVE Hong Kong’s former chief judge says upholding rule of law not political

Katie R. Ochoa

Hong Kong’s outgoing Main Justice Geoffrey Ma stands exterior the Courtroom of Closing Attractiveness soon after his retirement ceremony in Hong Kong, China January 6, 2021. REUTERS/Lam

  • Rule of regulation ‘not a political idea,’ Geoffrey Ma tells Regulation Modern society
  • Ma calls on judges to work ‘without concern or favour or bias’
  • Speech arrives amid fraught election at legal organisation

HONG KONG, Aug 25 (Reuters) – Hong Kong’s former main decide urged solicitors to keep on talking up for the rule of legislation, indicating it was their public responsibility and not political, as legal professionals selected a council to govern their profession overshadowed by a national stability law imposed by China.

Previous main justice Geoffrey Ma made his remarks to quite a few hundred users of the Regulation Society on Tuesday and afterwards supplied Reuters with a transcript of the speech in response to concerns.

Hong Kong judges symbolise one of the main guarantees of the city’s return from British to Chinese rule in 1997 along with ongoing freedoms: the right to a honest demo and equality below the legislation, all administered by an impartial judiciary.

Senior governing administration officers, led by Chief Executive Carrie Lam, and professional-Beijing media had warned the modern society towards getting “political”, accusing some candidates of bias. read extra

Ma told the culture that lawyers’ “owed obligations” had been to justice and its administration.

“Major between the responsibilities owed in the public interest is the assist of the rule of legislation … The rule of legislation is not a political idea,” reported Ma, who retired in January soon after 10 years as main justice and virtually 20 many years as a choose. “It is a notion that has, as its basis, the regulation alone and its spirit.”

The rule of legislation integrated the independence of the judiciary – an additional aspect that was “not a political idea”, Ma claimed.

This intended judges “will discharge their tasks without the need of fear or favour or bias or self-fascination,” he stated, including that fairness and equality ahead of the legislation were “the extremely attributes that outline justice alone”.

Some lawyers reported Ma’s remarks have been unconventional, given the small profile senior judges tend to keep in retirement.

Ma explained in an e mail to Reuters that his remarks did not – and were being not meant to – offer with new opinions by Lam and some others, for which he could “clearly supply no remark”.

“I cannot of study course talk for other people as to how they pick to interpret what was stated,” he reported.

The Hong Kong authorities did not immediately answer to requests for remark.

In a reaction to Reuters, the Hong Kong judiciary referred back again to a speech by Main Justice Andrew Cheung in May perhaps in which he explained lawful practitioners ought to “speak up for the judiciary, not only in protection of judicial independence, but also in defence of its … popularity as an independent judiciary”.

‘PROFESSIONALISM’ Around POLITICS

China imposed nationwide security laws on the metropolis in June 2020 to quell anti-federal government unrest. The legislation punishes what authorities broadly refer to as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with international forces critics stated it would be utilized to crush dissent.

In current months, opposition politicians and activists have been arrested and new limitations imposed.

A team of judges handpicked by Lam to listen to national protection circumstances are now contending with the initial of many cases that could see more than 100 outstanding opposition figures jailed for existence on numerous rates, such as subversion.

“All of us are expected to proceed to discharge our duty to safeguard countrywide security with profound courage and full confidence,” Lam mentioned in July. Officers in Hong Kong and Beijing have regularly mentioned that individuals who abide by the law have almost nothing to worry and it would only concentrate on a tiny minority of “troublemakers”.

Hong Kong returned to China underneath a “1 country, two systems” formulation, which guaranteed its freedoms and unbiased legal procedure. China denies interfering with its way of existence.

Several hours just after Ma spoke, 5 candidates pledging “professionalism” about politics were verified to have swept the election for the society’s governing council, in which 5 of 20 seats were up for grabs.[nL4N2PW062]

Right after Ma spoke and right before the votes ended up introduced, the World Occasions, a newspaper posted by China’s ruling Communist Occasion, explained the society’s election as a “battle in between justice and evil”.

The final result of the Law Modern society vote shattered the hopes of legal professionals who preferred tougher motion to defend the rule of regulation in the international monetary hub.

One of the three candidates described as “liberal” by pro-Beijing media, incumbent Jonathan Ross, withdrew more than the weekend, expressing he preferred to defend the protection of himself and his spouse and children.

Culture President Melissa Pang said her organisation would continue to protect the rule of law from a neutral stance.

“Professionalism is pretty significant,” she claimed immediately after the final results were being announced. “In conditions of politics, we are apolitical.”

In a response to inquiries from Reuters, Pang reported later on they were being “graced” by Ma’s presence at the function and she did not see any undertone of obstacle in his “inspiring speech”.

“The Regulation Society….has always been and will proceed to be fully committed to safeguarding the rule of legislation.”

Ma, accepting an honour of everyday living membership in the modern society, explained the physique experienced extended comprehended the “real indicating” of the rule of legislation.

“Not only that, the Law Society actively supported it and has, when the occasion demanded it, unambiguously spoken out,” he claimed in his shorter speech at a harbour-front convention hall.

The 12,000-member professional and regulatory entire body for the city’s lawful sector has a watchdog function around authorized variations, and a say in the appointments of judges and legal professionals who sit on govt advisory bodies.

Reporting by James Pomfret, Greg Torode, Anne Marie Roantree and Jessie Pang
Editing by Gerry Doyle and Nick Macfie

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Rely on Ideas.

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