LONDON: The UK government said Wednesday that its judges will no longer sit on Hong Kong’s top court over opposition to China’s national security law, with two Supreme Court judges resigning immediately.
“The situation has reached a tipping point where it is no longer tenable for British judges to sit on Hong Kong’s leading court, and would risk legitimizing oppression,” Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said.
“We have seen a systematic erosion of liberty and democracy in Hong Kong,” she added, noting the authorities had “cracked down on free speech, the free press and free association” since the security law was imposed in 2020.
Truss said she had reached the decision to withdraw the judges from the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal following consultations with the UK Supreme Court and ministers responsible for the judiciary.
The UK Supreme Court said its two judges currently sitting on the Hong Kong court in two of 12 overseas non-permanent positions had resigned with immediate effect.
“The judges of the Supreme Court cannot continue to sit in Hong Kong without appearing to endorse an administration which has departed from values of political freedom, and freedom of expression,” its president Robert Reed said.
Reed said he and fellow judge Patrick Hodge have submitted their resignations with immediate effect.
Under the Basic Law — Hong Kong’s mini-constitution — senior judges from common law jurisdictions are able to sit as non-permanent members of the Court of Final Appeal.
Eight of the 12 current overseas non-permanent judges sitting on the court are British.
It was unclear whether the British judges who are not members of the Supreme Court would also be withdrawing from the Hong Kong court with immediate effect.
The move by Britain — which handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997 — to pull its judges may add pressure on Australia and Canada to do the same.