Pro-Beijing lawmakers have voiced concerns over the LGBT stances of two prominent overseas judges who may be appointed to Hong Kong’s top court.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam earlier announced that she has accepted the recommendation of a judicial commission to appoint UK Supreme Court President Baroness Hale and former Canadian Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin as non-permanent judges of the Court of Final Appeal.

The appointment will be finalised following the endorsement of the Legislative Council. If accepted, they will be the first female judges to sit on the court.

McLachlin Hale
Beverley McLachlin and Lady Hale. Photo: Supreme Court of Canada/UK.

The Legislative Council’s Subcommittee on Proposed Senior Judicial Appointments held a meeting to discuss the matter on Friday morning. The Liberal Party’s Peter Shiu said he received feedback from the public opposing the appointments of the two judges. He said members of the public were concerned after reading in media reports that the two judges hold certain stances on the topic of LGBT rights.

DAB lawmaker Holden Chow said he learned from media reports that Lady Hale is a strong advocate of legalising same-sex marriage. “In the past, even before the UK formally made arrangements for same-sex marriage, she has already been pushing for it to happen very early on,” Chow said, adding that Lady Hale has not denied this.

In the UK, legislation for same-sex marriage was passed in 2013 and came into force in 2014.

Chow asked whether the two judges would consider recusing themselves from the case if the topic should reach the top court in Hong Kong.

Holden Chow Ho-ding
Holden Chow Ho-ding. File Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

Judicial Officers Recommendation Commission Secretary Emma Lau responded to the lawmakers’ concerns at the meeting. She said the current mechanisms and guidelines already clearly stipulate what judges should do in situations where there may be apparent bias. Lau added that she believed the judges will follow these guidelines.

Pro-establishment legislator Junius Ho called for a public hearing regarding the appointment, saying that political considerations should be taken into account.

However, Director of Administration Kitty Choi said that the appointments of judges should not be politicised, or Hong Kong’s judicial independence would be affected. Ho’s motion to hold a public hearing was voted down.

The committee passed the motion for appointing the two judges. The government will seek approval from the House Committee then submit the motion to a full meeting of the Legislative Council.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.