As the pro-democracy and anti-national security law protests in Hong Kong continue, China has made another arbitrary decision to empower Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to appoint judges to hear trials under the national security law, leaving many lawyers and opposition party leaders confused about Beijing’s real intentions.
“It is very odd for a person [who has] a stake in the prosecution to select the judges,” Hong Kong Bar Association chairman Philip Dykes said.
For some people, like the leader of the opposition Civic Party, Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu, it puts a big question on the impartiality of judges who will be appointed by pro-Beijing leader Lam, as a new mainland adviser would sit on a top-level national security commission to be set up to “give orders” to Hong Kong authorities.
Ling Bing, a law professor at Sydney University, has warned that the proposal is likely to violate the judicial independence in Hong Kong and undermine the credibility of such proceedings.
“Since Hong Kong will carry out the constitutional duty to safeguard national security, Beijing should allow Hong Kong’s judiciary to conduct trials in accordance with normal procedures,” Ling was quoted as saying.
“On the mainland, judges presiding over national security trials are not chosen by governors or mayors,” he added.
According to the latest draft of the controversial new legislation, Hong Kong will have a new committee headed by the city’s chief executive to ensure national security. It will be accountable to Beijing. The chief executive of Hong Kong will be able to appoint judges to cases involving crimes threatening national security.
According to local media, a final vote on the bill would be held in the coming weeks.