The Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma on Thursday issued a rare statement in response to the newly enacted national security law, saying it's the judiciary's mission and constitutional duty to protect its independence and the rule of law.
Critics have slammed some clauses of the new law, including the one which gives the Chief Executive the power to designate a list of judges to handle future cases, saying it would undermine the independence of the judiciary.
Justice Ma stressed judges should only be appointed on the basis of judicial and professional qualities, rather than politics.
"Judges should not be designated on the basis of any political considerations. This reinforces the principle that in the handling or determination of any legal dispute, only the law and legal principle will be considered," he said.
"Judges of foreign nationality are not excluded. They are expressly permitted to be appointed as judges in Hong Kong," Ma continued.
Ma pointed out that all designated judges will come from the existing ranks of the Judiciary.
“Appointments of judges under Article 88 of the Basic Law are made by the Chief Executive on the recommendation of the Judicial Officers Recommendation Commission, which is chaired by the Chief Justice. This has always been the position in Hong Kong,” the statement said.
The top judge also said the new arrangement of the CE designating judges doesn’t automatically suggest other justices aren't suitable to handle national security cases.
"It is intended that once the term of designated judges comes to an end, other suitable judges may be designated."
Justice Ma said the listing and handling of cases will be determined by the court leader, saying these matters are the sole responsibility of the judiciary and the operation of courts must be subjected to the requirements of the Basic Law.
The statement only touched on the designation of judges and the operation of the courts in handling cases under the new law.
"It is inappropriate to comment on other aspects of the law," the Chief Justice said.
'Protecting rule of law is HK judiciary's mission'
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