At a time when the Chinese Communist Party’s push for a “Hong Kong version of the National Security Law” last year has left Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” in name only and its judicial independence in question and severely weakened, British non-permanent Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal judge Brenda Marjorie Hale, a British non-permanent judge of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal, said her term of office would end and said she did not wish to be re-elected.
The Times recently quoted Hale as saying in an online conference that her term as a non-permanent overseas judge of the Court of Final Appeal expires in July and that she “does not wish to be reappointed. Ho also said that the main reason for her departure was that she had various concerns about the national security law under the current circumstances and could not predict when she would be able to travel to Hong Kong.
Born in 1945, Hidy Ho studied at Girton College, Cambridge and qualified as a barrister in 1969, was appointed a QC in 1989, was appointed a judge of the Family Court of the High Court of England in 1994, became a judge of the Court of Appeal in 1999, and was reappointed to the Court of Appeal in 2004. She became the first and only woman to serve as a permanent senior judge of the Court of Appeal in 2004. Since 2009, Hee Yee Ho has served as a judge of the UK Supreme Court, becoming Deputy President of the UK Supreme Court in 2013 and President in 2017, before stepping down in January 2020.
Earlier, on September 2 last year, James Spigelman, a non-permanent overseas judge of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal from Australia, tendered his resignation to Chief Executive Carrie Lam two years early. And the day before that, Mrs Lam took a stand on the social controversy over whether there is a separation of powers in Hong Kong, saying that there has never been a separation of powers in Hong Kong, only a separation of powers and an executive-led government.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) later reported that Shi said she resigned over “the relevant elements of the national security law,” but did not explain further. Sze’s resignation had sparked concern in the Hong Kong community. Hong Kong Bar Association President Dai Qisi was concerned about the potential impact on the rule of law in Hong Kong, while then-legislative council member Kwok Wing-clang was worried that the resignation of overseas judges would occur one after another, seriously undermining the international community’s confidence in the rule of law in Hong Kong.
Sze, who has served as a non-permanent judge of the Court of Final Appeal since 2013, will have his term end in July 2022. After his resignation, the Court of Final Appeal will still have 13 overseas non-permanent judges, including three from Australia.
He practiced as a barrister from 1980, was appointed QC in 1986, acted as Solicitor-General of New South Wales in 1997 and was appointed Chief Justice of New South Wales in 1998, a position he held until 2011.
Under the Basic Law, which returned Hong Kong’s sovereignty to China in 1997, Hong Kong has a social system that is different from the socialist system in mainland China. Unlike China’s mainland legal system and judicial system, which is subject to the control of the Chinese Communist Party, Hong Kong continues to have a common law system, or common law. Lawyers from the common law system are allowed to practice in Hong Kong, and senior judges are hired as non-permanent overseas judges for lifetime courts with final adjudication powers.
However, the Communist Party of China (CPC) introduced the “Hong Kong version of the National Security Law” in late June last year, imposing the will of the CPC authorities on Hong Kong, which has widely questioned and undermined the independence of the judiciary in Hong Kong. Critics say the law has destroyed the judicial firewall between mainland China and Hong Kong.