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Hong Kong pro-Beijing Legislative Council members interfere with judicial appointments

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Pro-Beijing lawmakers successfully intervened in Hong Kong’s senior judicial appointments for the first time, and lawyers described this as the latest attack on Hong Kong’s cherished independent legal system.

Two people familiar with the matter told the Financial Times that Maria Yuen, wife of Geoffrey Ma, the former chief justice of Hong Kong, will be appointed as the next permanent judge of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal.

But people familiar with the matter said she withdrew her candidacy for the city’s Supreme Court after lawmakers expressed concerns about the appointment. According to people familiar with the matter, lawmakers argued that Ms. Yuan may have been influenced by her husband, who had defended the neutrality of the Hong Kong judicial system in the past and was criticized by pro-Beijing sources.

This move is as Beijing suppressed In 2019, Hong Kong arrested pro-democracy activists, politicians and media figures in response to anti-government protests.

China has not yet made major changes to Hong Kong’s common law legal system.But any such move will Follow international companiesMany of them have set up regional headquarters in the city, partly because of its independent judiciary.

Two people familiar with the matter said that Yuan’s appointment was recommended by the Judicial Officers Recommendation Committee last year, which is a semi-independent body that considers Hong Kong’s judicial positions and is expected to be approved by Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam.

The de facto parliament in Hong Kong, the Legislative Council, must confirm nominees for the highest judicial office of the Chief Executive. In the past, this step was seen as a form.

But before Yuan’s proposal was finalized and formally sent to the legislature for confirmation, pro-Beijing lawmakers including Holden Zhou and Elizabeth Quart raised concerns.

The Judicial and Legal Services Group of the legislature, led by pro-Beijing legislators, asked judicial and government officials to discuss appointments.

According to people familiar with the matter, in addition to opposing that Ma may continue to pass Yuan’s impact on the court, lawmakers also stated that it took her a long time to make a verdict.

According to two people familiar with the matter, the politician’s investigation led Yuan to withdraw her nomination, which is the first known case of this kind. Yuen forwarded all requests for comment on the incident to the judiciary, but the judiciary declined to elaborate.

The committee then selected another judge, the judge to be appointed.

Ma Daoli, former Chief Justice of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal

Ma Daoli, former Chief Justice of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal and husband of Anita Yuen © EPA-EFE

Insiders said that Lin’s judgment is not seen as more conservative or liberal than Yuan, and there is no evidence that the legislators followed Beijing’s orders in Yuan’s case.

But senior legal professionals worry that the Yuan case may set a precedent for the formal review of judicial appointments by the Legislative Council led by pro-Beijing politicians. This in turn may weaken the authority of the Judicial Appointment Committee JORC.

A senior legal person said that political review of appointments may lead to judges’ selection based on their loyalty to Beijing rather than their ability, and may Block the best candidates From the front.

Johannes Chan, a legal scholar at the University of Hong Kong, said that the Yuan incident was “a very bad and worrying development of judicial independence.”

“It does provide a channel for political interference, through an agency to appoint key judicial personnel. [legislature] It was dominated by pro-Beijing politicians,” Chen said.

Critics say the government decided last year Appoint a separate judge The case involving the National Security Law introduced by Beijing after the protests last year has undermined the perception of judicial independence.

Tong Yingjie’s trial, The first person accused According to the security law, it is scheduled to start before these judges on Wednesday.

Legislators Chow and Quat declined to comment on the Yuen case. Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor declined to comment, but said: “All appointments of judicial officers by the Chief Executive are made in accordance with Hong Kong’s Mini Constitution, the Basic Law.”

Jeffrey Ma declined to comment.

Horace Zhang, chairman of the Judicial and Legal Services Group of the Legislature, said that he has contacted the government and the judiciary to “get preliminary opinions.” .. Questions raised by members of the nomination process team.

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