Hong Kong Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng has dismissed a report claiming that Beijing is interfering in the city’s legal system. She said it was “misleading,” while telling the media not to “over-report” Beijing’s warning over legislative stalling tactics by opposition lawmakers.

Speaking to the press at the Legislative Council on Friday, Cheng said a statement by Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma on Wednesday amounted to “direct evidence” that the Chinese authorities did not intervene in Hong Kong’s judiciary. She said the Basic Law has a comprehensive mechanism to safeguard judicial independence, with open trials and an independent committee – free from the influence of political affiliation – to appoint judges.

Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng
Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

“The Department of Justice and the legal sector should clearly know that judicial independence is our cornerstone. [They] must not be casually misled to say something,” Cheng said.

The minister’s remarks came after Reuters reported on Tuesday that Hong Kong’s judicial independence and rule of law have been threatened by Beijing’s interference, citing three anonymous senior judges. The report also claimed that Ma – the city’s top judge – had to contend with Communist Party officials’ stance that “the rule of law ultimately must be a tool to preserve one-party rule.”

Ma issued a rare statement the next day in response to the report, saying he had never “encountered or experienced any form of interference by the Mainland authorities with judicial independence in Hong Kong, including the appointment of judges.”

Without directly referring to Reuters’ report, Cheng said: “I’d like to stress that no one should make speculations without any factual basis. I believe a responsible media organisation should confirm the facts before reporting.”

Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma
Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma. File Photo: GovHK.

Lawmakers’ filibustering

Cheng also defended the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) and Beijing’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong, which issued two statements on Monday blaming opposition lawmakers for using  “malicious filibustering” to paralyse the legislature.

She said that, while Hong Kong had a high degree of autonomy in certain matters, it doesn’t mean Beijing is not concerned or would give up its power in executing “One Country, Two Systems.”

“When the two agencies make some comments, there is no need to over-report on it, because – as the Central [authorities] – they have the power and responsibility to voice opinion on some matters in Hong Kong,” Cheng said.

She added attempts by people seeking to use overseas laws or appealing to foreign administrations to impose sanctions against Hong Kong would be seen as “blatantly interfering” with the city’s affairs and China’s internal governance. Such acts would violate international laws and norms, she said.

Ho Long Sze Kelly is a Hong Kong-based journalist covering politics, criminal justice, human rights, social welfare and education. As a Senior Reporter at Hong Kong Free Press, she has covered the aftermath of the 2019 extradition bill protests and the Covid-19 pandemic extensively, as well as documented the transformation of her home city under the Beijing-imposed national security law.

Kelly has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration. Prior to joining HKFP in 2020, she was on the frontlines covering the 2019 citywide unrest for South China Morning Post’s Young Post. She also covered sports and youth-related issues.