Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen has said there has been no damage to Hong Kong’s judicial independence over the past year.

The latest Global Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum put Hong Kong in sixth place, rising from the ninth last year. But the city’s ranking for judicial independence dropped five places to 13th place.

Yuen said on Thursday that the government has worked hard to maintain judicial independence.

Rimsky Yuen
Rimsky Yuen. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

“In this latest report, we noticed that Hong Kong still has the best result in judicial independence in Asia, but we also noticed we dropped from rank eight to 13,” he said. “Of course we will pay attention to that.”

“Objectively, did our judicial independence receive any interference, in terms of the system, or in terms of every single judge when they handle cases? Objectively, I did not see any objective factor affecting Hong Kong’s judicial independence,” he said.

He said all judicial officers have been handling cases professionally and independently: “I am confident that objectively Hong Kong’s judicial independence did not receive any damage over the past year.”

‘Subjective views’

Yuen added that there were often “subjective factors” affecting Hong Kong or international society’s views on judicial independence.

“I believe, at the end of the day, we cannot only rely on subjective views, we have to look at facts.”

He said the government will put more effort into explaining Hong Kong’s judicial independence to the local and international community, so that they will have an “objective, full and correct understanding.”

Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow
Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow. File photo: In-Media.

Last month, the three leaders of the 2014 pro-democracy Occupy protests were jailed after the Department of Justice filed a sentence review pushing for harsher punishment, citing the need for “deterrence.”

“In recent years, an unhealthy wind has been blowing in Hong Kong. Some people, on the pretext of pursuing their ideals or freely exercising their rights conferred by law, have acted wantonly in an unlawful manner,” said Judge Wally Yeung said in the re-sentencing judgment.

The sentence was heavily criticised by human rights bodies and pro-democracy parties, and triggered an international backlash. The trio have since filed appeals.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.