If China imposes its proposed new draconian security law for Hong Kong on the territory, where would that leave the independent judiciary? So far, genuine independence has been maintained, and Geoffrey Ma, the Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal (CFA), has spoken up for proper legal values. But he retires soon, and Beijing, which has not previously interfered, has the power of appointment.
The CFA has on it, at any one time, one ‘nonpermanent’ overseas judge out of an active body of ten, on a monthly annual rotation. These judges are mainly British, and always include the President of our Supreme Court (currently Lord Reed), as well as several retired Supreme Court judges. The most famous is Lady Hale, of the spider brooch. When each goes for his or her month in Hong Kong, each (plus spouse) is received with great state, and accommodated in luxury. If China overrides the Common Law system which our judges help uphold, will they resign? Or if, as is possible, the oppressive law passes through an intimidated Legislative Council, will they feel free to stay on? Lady Hale made herself famous by denouncing the British government over prorogation. Where will she stand on Chinese dictatorship?
This article is an extract from Charles Moore's Spectator Notes, available in this week's magazine.