Hong Kong’s chief John Lee has requested Beijing to rule on whether or not overseas attorneys can work on nationwide safety circumstances, after the territory’s high court docket rejected the federal government’s try to stop a British barrister from representing jailed media tycoon Jimmy Lai.
Lee instructed a information convention on Tuesday that he anticipated China’s Nationwide Individuals’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) to make a ruling on the matter “as quickly as doable”, however didn’t point out whether or not the choice would come earlier than the beginning of Lai’s trial on Thursday.
Lai, who headed the now closed pro-democracy tabloid Apple Every day, is dealing with a landmark nationwide safety trial and Lee mentioned Hong Kong authorities have been searching for a delay its begin.
His request for Beijing’s intervention will mark solely the sixth occasion of China’s high legislative physique weighing into authorized issues in Hong Kong, a former British colony that, underneath a “one nation, two techniques” association, is meant to have judicial independence from Beijing.
The Court docket of Ultimate Enchantment on Monday dismissed the federal government’s bid to dam British barrister Timothy Owen from the trial and impose a “blanket ban” on overseas attorneys engaged on nationwide safety circumstances.
However Lee argued that Beijing’s intervention was essential partly as a result of a overseas lawyer may expose state secrets and techniques or be compromised by a overseas authorities.
“There is no such thing as a efficient means to make sure that a counsel from abroad is not going to have a battle of curiosity due to his nationality,” Lee instructed reporters on Monday. “And there’s additionally no means to make sure he has not been coerced, compromised or in any means managed by overseas governments, associations or individuals.”
Beijing imposed the sweeping nationwide safety regulation on Hong Kong in June 2020 after sometimes-violent protests rocked the town for months the 12 months earlier than. The laws — which punishes acts of secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with overseas forces with as much as life in jail — has been broadly condemned by Western governments and human rights teams.
Nationwide safety circumstances
Lai, probably the most outstanding Hong Kong critics of China’s Communist Celebration management, together with Xi Jinping, faces two counts of conspiracy to commit collusion with overseas nations, in addition to a sedition cost linked to his Apple Every day newspaper that was compelled to shut in June 2021 after a police raid and a freeze on its belongings.
The 74-year-old, who was arrested in December 2020, is already serving a 20-month jail sentence for his function in unauthorised assemblies. He’s additionally anticipating a sentencing over his fraud conviction subsequent month.
Owen is a London-based authorized veteran who specialises in legal and human rights regulation.
Hong Kong makes use of the identical widespread regulation jurisdiction as the UK.
Some authorized consultants warned the enchantment to Beijing would erode public confidence in Hong Kong’s judicial independence.
“What we’ve seen with interpretations is mainly, ‘Heads I win, tails you lose,” Alvin Cheung, an assistant regulation professor at Queen’s College in Canada, instructed the Reuters information company.
Cheung was a part of a bunch that drafted a authorized evaluation in Might, signed by Britain’s former Justice Secretary Robert Buckland and retired Australian excessive court docket decide Michael Kirby, that recognized NPCSC interpretations as one of many principal threats to Hong Kong’s rule of regulation.
“The NPCSC is a political (and undemocratic) physique whose proceedings happen behind closed doorways, with no participation from the events at go well with. Its choices are actuated by political issues reasonably than authorized analysis and comprise little to no reasoning,” the authorized opinion learn.
Aside from having abroad judges within the metropolis’s courts, attorneys from different widespread regulation jurisdictions are allowed to work inside Hong Kong’s authorized system, particularly when their experience is required for some circumstances.
Final month, the decrease court docket granted approval for Owen to symbolize Lai, saying it was within the public curiosity to have an eminent abroad specialist concerned on the trial. And on Monday, the Court docket of Ultimate Enchantment gave a ultimate ruling on the matter, rejecting the Division of Justice’s utility on technical grounds.
The panel of three judges on the highest court docket — Chief Justice Andrew Cheung, Roberto Ribeiro and Joseph Fok — in a written judgement, criticised the Division of Justice for “elevating undefined and unsubstantiated points mentioned to contain nationwide safety which weren’t talked about or explored within the Courts under”.
However they left open the overarching query of whether or not barristers from abroad ought to in precept be excluded from nationwide safety circumstances.
Authorized consultants and rights teams on Monday expressed concern over Lee’s choice to ask Beijing to intervene.
Lee’s transfer “is in observe making of a brand new rule reasonably than an interpretation of an present regulation,” mentioned Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun, the previous dean of the School of Legislation on the College of Hong Kong. “There are far-reaching implications in any such interpretation which can severely compromise Hong Kong as a global metropolis,” he instructed the South China Morning Put up.
Reporters With out Borders additionally criticised Lee’s transfer, urging Hong Kong’s authorities to permit Lai a illustration of his personal selecting.
#HongKong authorities ought to enable #JimmyLai a illustration of his personal selecting! Assist RSF by signing and sharing the enchantment calling on the authorities to #FreeJimmyLai!👇https://t.co/91UJpRToN2 2/2
— RSF (@RSF_inter) November 28, 2022