Two judges from Britain’s Supreme Court have resigned from the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal (HKCFA), due to a new law introduced last year.
Judges from the court and its predecessor have sat on the Hong Kong court for many years, as part of commitments made by the British government in 1997, when it handed the territory over to China.
In a statement, however, the Supreme Court president Lord Reed said that, since the introduction of the Hong Kong national-security law in 2020, this position had become “increasingly finely balanced”.
Lord Reed said that the courts in Hong Kong continued to be internationally respected for their commitment to the rule of law.
“Nevertheless, I have concluded, in agreement with the government, that the judges of the Supreme Court cannot continue to sit in Hong Kong without appearing to endorse an administration which has departed from values of political freedom, and freedom of expression, to which the justices of the Supreme Court are deeply committed,” he added.
Lord Reed and his deputy, Lord Hodge, have now resigned from the HKCFA with immediate effect.
Britain’s foreign secretary Liz Truss (pictured) accused China of using the national security law, and its related institutions, to undermine “the fundamental rights and freedoms” promised in the joint declaration between the two countries in 1997.
“We are seeing the implications of this sweeping legislation – including the chilling effect on freedom of expression, the stifling of opposition voices, and the criminalising of dissent,” she said.
“Given this concerning downward trajectory, the foreign secretary has agreed with the deputy prime minister and lord chancellor [Dominic Raab], and the president of the UK Supreme Court Lord Reed, that the political and legal situation in Hong Kong has reached the point at which it is no longer tenable for serving UK judges to participate on the Final Court of Appeal,” she concluded.
The President of the Law Society of England and Wales I Stephanie Boyce said that the society respected the decision, adding that the organisation shared the judges’ assessment of the 2020 law.