Bar Association slams sanctions call for NSL judges

The Bar Association on Thursday condemned a call by a group of US Congress members for Washington to impose sanctions on national security judges and prosecutors in Hong Kong, saying it deplores any attempts to interfere with the SAR’s judiciary.

Seven Republican lawmakers wrote to US President Joe Biden last week saying designated national security judges and prosecutors in Hong Kong should be subject to sanctions for what they said was Beijing’s failure to meet its obligations under the Sino-British Joint Declaration and for implementing the national security law.

“The bar deplores and condemns in the strongest terms any attempts by anyone, anywhere, to interfere with the operation of Hong Kong’s independent judiciary and the administration of justice in Hong Kong,” the association said in a statement.

It said there can be no question of the integrity and independence of Hong Kong judges, adding that their appointments and the discharge of their duties are free from any political considerations and interference.

“It is of fundamental importance to the rule of law in Hong Kong and indeed elsewhere that the judiciary, judges and judicial officers be allowed to operate and exercise their judicial power independently and free from any interference,” the association said.

It added that Article 63 of the Basic Law states that the Department of Justice shall control criminal prosecutions, free from any interference. It also said lawyers should not be subject to “illegitimate pressure” when defending or prosecuting, saying this would interfere with the proper administration of justice and the right to legal representation.

Meanwhile, the judiciary said any suggestion made to exert improper pressure – including the imposition of sanctions – on judges and judicial officers is a “flagrant and direct affront” to the rule of law and judicial independence in Hong Kong, and is totally unacceptable.

It added that the rule of law and judicial independence in Hong Kong are guaranteed under the Basic Law.

“Articles 2, 19 and 85 of the Basic Law specifically provide that the judicial power, including that of final adjudication, vested with the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region under the Basic Law is to be exercised by the judiciary independently, free from any interference,” it said.

The judiciary said all judges and judicial officers are appointed by the chief executive on the recommendation of recommendation of the Judicial Officers Recommendation Commission. It said they are chosen on the basis of their judicial and professional qualities, and must abide by the judicial oath to administer justice in full accordance with the law, without fear or favour, self-interest or deceit.

“Their constitutional duty is to exercise their judicial power independently and professionally in every case, including cases relating to national security, on the basis of the law and evidence, and nothing else,” it said.