Hong Kong’s new top judge yesterday stressed the importance of the territory’s judicial independence and rule of law, describing them as crucial to business confidence and the international reputation of the global business hub.
Andrew Cheung (張舉能) made his remarks hours after he was sworn in to replace Geoffrey Ma (馬道立), 65, who is retiring after a decade as chief justice in the former British colony.
Cheung, 59, takes office at a pivotal moment for the territory’s judges amid rising political pressures and the new National Security Law imposed by Beijing.
Photo: EPA-EFE /Hong Kong Government Information Services Department
The first prosecutions under the security law are now moving through the courts, while some pro-Beijing figures are demanding reviews of the way sentences are meted out and judges appointed.
“An independent judiciary is essential to the rule of law of in Hong Kong and the due administration of justice,” Cheung said. “It is equally crucial to public and business confidence — whether local or overseas — in our judicial system, as well as to the international reputation of Hong Kong.”
That independence meant in part that the courts “must not be subject to improper extraneous pressure or influence,” he said.
The National Security Law makes anything Beijing regards as subversion, secession, terrorism or colluding with foreign forces punishable by up to life in prison.
The independence of Hong Kong’s judiciary is outlined in the territory’s Basic Law, the mini-constitution that enshrines its extensive autonomy and freedoms following its handover in 1997.
Cheung said those freedoms — including of assembly, speech and due process — were “fundamental” under the Basic Law.
“Society expects the courts and our judges to generously interpret and jealously protect these rights when they are threatened or otherwise interfered with,” he said in remarks to formally open Hong Kong’s legal year.
Meanwhile, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau (邱騰華) yesterday said that international businesses in the territory see law and order as key for investing.
“In any business, financial center in particular, people would look at things in totality. Law and order is one very important thing,” Yau said in an interview at a Reuters Next conference.
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