An independent and professional judiciary is essential to Hong Kong’s success and cannot be subject to compromise, the Law Society says.
It said in a statement Sunday that the judiciary is respected by Hong Kong people and highly regarded by the international community.
The statement followed a Sept. 12 speech by Beijing’s top official in Hong Kong in which he said the chief executive has a constitutional status higher than the three branches of government.
Zhang Xiaoming, director of the central government’s Liaison Office, also said the chief executive has “overriding” authority over the judiciary and that Hong Kong does not have real separation of powers.
Last Monday, the Hong Kong Bar Association challenged Zhang to explain his comments.
Meanwhile, establishment politicians led by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen, as well as the pro-Beijing media have defended Zhang’s remarks amid a widening controversy.
The Law Society said an independent judiciary and rule of law are fundamental principles that deserve the strongest support from the community, according to Ming Pao Daily.
The statement did not comment on whether Hong Kong has real separation of powers but stressed the “paramount importance” of the judiciary in providing an effective check against abuse of power.
It is important that it remain professional and its integrity unblemished, the society said.
It said judicial independence is guaranteed by Articles 2, 19, 85 and 88 of the Basic Law and cited in various court judgments.
Barrister Anthony Neoh, a former chairman of Securities and Futures Commission, said separation of the three branches of government — executive, legislative and judicial — means equality before the law and judicial independence.
In that sense, Hong Kong is no different from other jurisdictions such as the United States and Britain, he said.
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