Britain says it is withdrawing its judges from Hong Kong’s apex court because it would “legitimize persecution” in the former British colony
LONDON – Britain on Wednesday said it was withdrawing its judges from Hong Kong’s apex court because it would “legitimize persecution” in the former British colony.
The government has said it is “no longer qualified to serve UK judges” to sit in the final appeals court because of the increasingly oppressive laws enacted by China. Two British judges submitted their resignations on Wednesday.
In recent years, China has gradually moved away from individual political, legal and social institutions in Hong Kong. These efforts include the passage of a comprehensive national security law in 2020 and changes to the electoral system that have effectively ended political opposition in the region.
Security law has led to allegations that Beijing was undermining its promised autonomy when Hong Kong was ceded to China as a “special administrative region” and its reputation as a trade and financial center was undermined.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has said that “since the enactment of the National Security Act, authorities have cracked down on freedom of speech, the free press and free association.”
“The situation has reached a point where British judges do not have to sit in Hong Kong’s apex court and take the risk of legitimizing the persecution,” Truss said.
He said the decision to recall British judges in Hong Kong was taken by the British government in consultation with the head of the UK Supreme Court.
Conservative British lawmaker Ian Duncan Smith, a longtime critic of the government in Beijing, said “the government has done the right thing here, and not too soon.”
“What Ukraine teaches us is that you can’t just appease omnipotent states or make excuses for their behavior, that’s exactly what our judges’ presence in Hong Kong was doing,” Smith said. “They were legitimizing a regime that was hell-bent on devaluing our lives.”
Elaine Kurtenbach contributed reporting from Bangkok.