Chief Executive Carrie Lam has condemned recent attacks on judges, which emerged after retired superintendent Frankly Chu was sentenced to jail for assaulting a pedestrian during the 2014 Umbrella Movement. “Hong Kong is a society of rule of law, and rule of law depends on an independent judiciary,” she told reporters on Tuesday.
Lam attended the opening of the legal year on Monday — the first time a chief executive has attended the ceremony since the 1997 Handover. “I hope this shows the importance the administration and I attach to the legal system and the judiciary.”
“My team and I will firmly defend judicial independence and the spirit of rule of law,” Lam said, adding that Hong Kong’s judicial system has been respected internationally for the past two decades.
Lam said that courts rule according to the law and exercise their independent powers in an unbiased manner. “Any attacks on the judiciary or the judicial system to interfere with its independence – insulting or even threatening the judges – is unacceptable. I believe society will also not tolerate this. The government will deal with the matter in accordance with the law,” Lam said.
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Lam added that she will work to provide more resources to the judiciary, and said that there are plans for relocating two court buildings.
Responding to suggestions that Hong Kong should not appoint foreign judges and ought set up a mechanism to “supervise” the judiciary, Lam said that such recommendations were “irrational.” She said they go against the guarantees provided to the judiciary under the Basic Law.
In defending Hong Kong’s legal system, Lam said there was also a need to respect the constitutional framework and order under “One Country,” in relation to “One Country, Two Systems.” She said that the joint checkpoint arrangement for the express rail link approved by the national legislature last month “has a strong constitutional and legal basis.”
Lam said that they hoped the proposal would be submitted to the Legislative Council before early February, so that it could be reviewed before the summer recess and the rail link can operate by the third quarter of 2018.
Under the arrangement, Hong Kong will effectively surrender its jurisdiction across a quarter of the new Express Rail terminus, where immigration procedures will be performed by mainland law enforcement agents when it opens later this year.
The controversial arrangement has been heavily criticised by the city’s legal community as lacking legal foundation and violating the Basic Law.
Lam also said that she believed it was unfair to say that the government has not explained clearly the legal basis for the mechanism and that it was vulgar to describe the arrangement as “castrating” Hong Kong’s legal system.