Johnny Patterson

The Supreme Court’s shameful statement on Hong Kong

In a statement which will doubtless surprise the scores of lawyers, democratic politicians and human rights activists who are currently in jail awaiting show trials under Hong Kong’s National Security Law, the UK Supreme Court today made an announcement which is the best piece of free PR that Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam has had in years.

The President of the Supreme Court, Lord Reed, has issued a statement saying that UK judges will be staying on Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal and that ‘the judiciary in Hong Kong continues to act largely independently of government and their decisions continue to be consistent with the rule of law.’

Lord Reed is one of Britain’s foremost legal minds which is why it is so troubling that he seems either inadvertently, or perhaps even wilfully, blind to the variety of insidious ways that the rule of law in Hong Kong has been compromised in the last year. The idea that Hong Kong courts have ‘independence from government’ is no longer a meaningfully credible notion. By justifying the presence of British judges in the way that he has done, he is providing a veneer of legitimacy to a system which no longer deserves to be considered a bastion of the rule of law.

The Supreme Court’s endorsement of the city’s rule of law is an utter embarrassment

Consider the facts. The Hong Kong Secretary of Justice decides charges sensitive National Security cases and the Hong Kong government decides on the judge. To make matters worse, there is a pre-vetted list of designated National Security Law judges. In National Security cases the law is now applied retrospectively, bail is the exception not the rule, and the presumption of innocence is no longer assumed. The process is pre-determined from start to finish. It cannot be described as the rule of law.

Lord Reed might argue that these are only a small minority of cases.

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