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Reforms to HK judiciary needed, says Zhang Xiaoming

2020-11-17 HKT 16:17
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  • Zhang Xiaoming didn't say during his speech for an online summit what kind of reforms to Hong Kong's judiciary he would like to see implemented.
    Zhang Xiaoming didn't say during his speech for an online summit what kind of reforms to Hong Kong's judiciary he would like to see implemented.
Cecil Wong reports
A senior mainland official has added his voice to calls for reform of the judiciary in Hong Kong, saying "even in Western countries" judicial systems have to catch up with the times.

Zhang Xiaoming, a deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO), agreed during an online forum on Tuesday that it's time for an overhaul.

"Even in Western countries, judicial systems have to catch up with the times and reform constantly," Zhang said, adding that any changes would not affect judicial independence.

In recent weeks, pro-establishment figures and pro-Beijing media have repeatedly demanded reform, as they accused magistrates of being biased against the police and government, and of handing down lenient sentences to people who took part in the SAR's social unrest.

DAB lawmakers Holden Chow and Elizabeth Quat, meanwhile, have led calls for a sentencing council to be established to look at whether the maximum punishments for various offences are appropriate, with the pair saying such a move would "restore people's confidence" in the judiciary.

In his speech, Zhang also noted that retired Court of Final Appeal judge Henry Litton has been calling for an overhaul of the judiciary. Litton alleges that the SAR's courts have distorted the Basic Law by applying overseas values that are unsuitable for Hong Kong's situation, and that the judiciary has lost Beijing's trust.

"Such a rational voice from a person inside the trade should be valued by the whole of society, in particular the judiciary and the legal community," Zhang said.

The HKMAO official did not give any examples of the kind of reforms he would like to see implemented.

SAR ministers recently insisted that there is no separation of powers in Hong Kong – a claim which contradicts comments made by officials over the years, including senior members of the judiciary.

In September, the HKMAO suggested that merely claiming that a separation of powers does exist could be a breach of the national security law.