A professional association for lawyers in Hong Kong warned that the right to a fair trial could be threatened in the future, given that the city’s chief executive (CE) would be able to pick judges for certain criminal cases under Beijing’s proposed national security law.
“We express concern that such process of designation of judges would give the CE the power to oversee and interfere with the Judiciary,” the Law Society in Hong Kong said in a June 24 statement, adding that this “prejudices judicial independence.”
It noted that “judicial independence is a cornerstone of our justice system within a common law jurisdiction, and cannot be compromised.”
After China’s rubber-stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC), adopted a national security law for Hong Kong in a ceremonial vote on May 28, the NPC standing committee released more details about the draft proposal on June 20—stipulating that Hong Kong would have jurisdiction over cases except under “exceptional circumstances,” when mainland China would intervene. The chief executive, currently pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam, would appoint judges to hear national security-related cases.
The law would criminalize those who engage in activities connected to “subversion, secession, terrorism, and foreign interference” against the Chinese regime.
The Law Society highlighted its concerns about Chinese authorities’ ability to have jurisdiction over certain cases.
It said this brings up the possibility that “individuals in Hong Kong may be subject to judicial process other than those administered by the HKSAR courts.”
China’s courts are controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and often violate rule of law in cases concerning dissidents.
“Queries are raised as to whether fundamental human rights, including the right to a fair trial, can be effectively safeguarded,” the body added.
On June 25, about a dozen members of the local pro-democracy party, League of Social Democrats, staged a rally outside the Hong Kong Liaison Office, Beijing’s representative office in the city.
They brought over 20,000 signatures they had collected in a petition drive opposing the national security law. Some of the petition papers were tied to the steel fences outside the office.
They also held up posters showing pictures of people in mainland China who had been charged for “inciting subversion of state power”—a catch-all charge Beijing often uses against dissidents.