British Judges To Withdraw From The Hong Kong Court Of Final Appeal

British Judges To Withdraw From The Hong Kong Court Of Final Appeal

On March 30, 2022, the U.K. Foreign Secretary issued a statement in support of the withdrawal of serving U.K. judges from the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal. As the Foreign Secretary Liz Truss commented, “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.”

Over the years, British judges have played an important role in supporting the judiciary in Hong Kong. However, recent years have seen the ever-growing erosion of fundamental rights and freedoms in Hong Kong, and especially, after the imposition of the controversial National Security Law in 2020. The Deputy Prime Minister, Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor, Dominic Raab, commented, “Since 2020 and the introduction of the national security law, our assessment of the situation in Hong Kong is that it has shifted too far from the freedoms that we hold dear – making free expression and honest critique of the state a criminal offense.” This suppression of human rights put into question the future of British judges in the Hong Kong’s judiciary.

The move comes weeks after Ben Rogers, a British national and co-founder of Hong Kong Watch, a non-governmental organization monitoring human rights in Hong Kong, was threatened with investigations and prosecutions. The letter from the Hong Kong National Security Bureau and a notice from the Hong Kong Police ordered him to take down the Hong Kong Watch website within 72 hours of receipt of the notice. The letter alleged that a “criminal investigation reveals that Hong Kong Watch has been engaging in activities seriously interfering in the affairs of the [Hong Kong Special Administrative Region] and jeopardizing the national security of the People’s Republic of China’ and as such, committed the offense of collusion. This offense triggers punishment of no less than three years’ imprisonment.

According to reports, more than 160 people have been arrested under the National Security Law. The majority of them being human rights defenders, journalists and opposition politicians. Over 50 non-governmental organizations were forced to close since the enacted of the controversial law.

In response, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) called upon the international community to suspend extradition treaties with Hong Kong to ensure that other countries do not participate in this attack on human rights defenders globally. Indeed, while the majority of extradition agreements with Hong Kong are suspended, as a result of the deteriorating human rights situation in Hong Kong, Czech Republic, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea and Sri Lanka have not followed suit. As IBAHRI warns, “traveling to these countries poses a threat for human rights defenders who may be targeted with the National Security Laws and extradited to Hong Kong to face charges.” Further concerns relate to the use or potential misuse of INTERPOL “Red Notices” by authoritarian governments to target human rights defenders.

The withdrawal of British judges from the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal is a clear message that erosion of human rights in Hong Kong is of grave concern and any activities that could be seen as legitimizing the oppression must be ceased. No country or international body should be complicit in this oppression, whether by way of extradition treaties, INTERPOL “Red Notices” or other.


Article by Dr. Ewelina U. Ochab

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