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PRESS RELEASE: CFHK Foundation Releases New Report Detailing how Foreign Judges in Hong Kong Provide Legitimacy to China’s Authoritarian Crackdown and Calling on Them to Resign

14 May 2024 – Today in the British Parliament, the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong (CFHK) Foundation released a new report detailing how ten foreign judges are lending legitimacy to Beijing’s crackdown on political freedoms in Hong Kong.

In a report titled “Lending Prestige to Persecution: How Foreign Judges are Undermining Hong Kong’s Freedoms and Why They Should Quit”, the authors detail the breakdown of the independent judicial system in Hong Kong and how foreign common law judges from the UK, Canada and Australia are empowering an authoritarian regime.

The report launch was hosted by Alistair Carmichael, MP and the Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong. The panel included the report author, Alyssa Fong from the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation, and Dr. Jane Richards, Lecturer in Law at the University of York, and former academic at the University of Hong Kong.

The report describes how the Court of Final Appeal (“CFA") has supported the regime’s crackdown on dissent and endorsed moves to strip away defendants’ rights. In several cases highlighted in the report, the foreign judges have even voted directly to imprison political dissidents.

According to the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the CFA can appoint overseas non-permanent judges from other common law jurisdictions. The report examines the current group of five British, one Canadian, and three Australian judges. Our findings show that these judges no longer provide positive contributions to the courts and have been complicit in the regime’s efforts to undermine rule of law.

In addition, with respect to the British judges who are members of the House of Lords, the report highlights how their dual allegiances to the Crown and the Hong Kong government have created irreconcilable conflicts. This has become an increasingly problematic issue as political tension between the two countries have grown, with the House of Lords now regularly called on to consider bills at odds with the interests of the Chinese and Hong Kong governments. Moreover, these British judges have managed to avoid disclosing their compensation from the Hong Kong government, either by taking leaves of absences from the Lords or simply failing to declare their financial renumeration as required by the House of Lords Code of Conduct.

The report was authored by Alyssa Fong, CFHK Foundation’s Public Affairs and Advocacy Manager, and Samuel Bickett, a Hong Kong human rights lawyer, researcher, and advocate.

Alyssa Fong, Public Affairs and Advocacy Manager for the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation said:

“While we acknowledge that many of these foreign judges have contributed tremendously to rule of law and justice in their home countries, as a HongKonger, it saddens me to hear the judges claim judicial independence when teenagers in Hong Kong are being sent to prison for participating or covering the pro-democracy marches in 2019 and 2020, or while Jimmy Lai remains detained on a sham trial for collusion with foreign forces and publishing seditious materials. We firmly believe that these overseas non-permanent judges should step down from the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal to stop giving the Hong Kong authorities any legitimacy.”

Samuel Bickett, Hong Kong human rights lawyer and advocate, said:

“It is long past time for Hong Kong’s remaining overseas judges to resign. Our report shows that these judges’ presence has lent support to grave human rights violations. As someone who was unjustly imprisoned by the Hong Kong courts, I know first-hand how the judiciary supports the regime by manipulating evidence and processes against dissidents. Many of these foreign judges have in the past claimed to be human rights champions, but their legacies are now threatened by their collaboration with a judiciary that is actively undermining these rights. Stepping down is not just a professional obligation but a moral imperative.”

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