Date
18 December 2017
The Bar Association, headed by chairman Paul Shieh Wing-tai (left), draws on comments by Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen (right) to make its case against the white paper. Photo: HKEJ
The Bar Association, headed by chairman Paul Shieh Wing-tai (left), draws on comments by Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen (right) to make its case against the white paper. Photo: HKEJ

Lawyers make case against white paper

The Hong Kong Bar Association has underscored the independence of the city’s judiciary, saying judges and judicial officers are not administrators with a political mission or task, Ming Pao Daily reported.

The statement comes a day after the State Council’s Information Office released a controversial white paper on the mechanics of the “one country, two systems” policy in Hong Kong. The white paper stressed Beijing’s ultimate authority over the city and indicated that all those who administer Hong Kong – including judges – are part of the administration, the Standard reported.

But the association said classing judicial officers as administrators or tasking them with a political mission will send the wrong message that the city’s courts are part of the machinery of the government and sing in unison with it. 

It also cited Secretary for Justice and former association chairman Rimsky Yuen as saying in 2008 that the “judiciary in Hong Kong has always been, and under the Basic Law it shall remain, separate and independent from the executive and the legislature. It is not, and should not be regarded as, part of the governance team.”

The association added that it is not the case that in deciding cases judges and the courts in Hong Kong need to learn, understand, or take instructions, about any definitive “correct” meaning of the Basic Law from anyone else.

Yuen said the association misinterpreted his 2008 statement and the public should not over-interpret some of the wording of the white paper or see conspiracies.

Legislator and former association chairman Alan Leong and former legislator Martin Lee branded the white paper an insult to the rule of law in Hong Kong, saying the courts cannot cooperate with the government.

Eric Cheung from the University of Hong Kong’s law faculty, said judges swear loyalty to the law and not to a country or its leaders. Cheung said judges should make rulings based on legal and professional points and not to be influenced by politics, the report said.

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