The Hong Kong Bar Association Vice-Chairperson Anita Yip has said plans to give the chief executive power to select judges to handle cases involving national security was “unheard of,” as she raised concerns over executive interference into the judiciary.

On Saturday, state-run Xinhua News Agency reported draft details of the looming Beijing-imposed national security law, which would punish acts deemed to constitute secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference in Hong Kong.

Anita Yip. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

One of the proposed provisions most Hong Kong lawyers would find “difficult to accept” was the authority of the city’s leader to designate judges to try such cases, Yip said on RTHK’s City Forum on Sunday.

“By looking at the text, it is totally an executive interference. Judicial independence is a cornerstone [of the rule of law]. Letting the chief executive select a judge to try a case is unheard of,” Yip said.

The top barrister’s remarks echoed that of legal scholar Johannes Chan, who on Sunday questioned the fairness of such an arrangement on a Commercial Radio programme.

He said it would be similar to “the plaintiff choosing the judge” and it would affect people’s confidence in the city’s judicial independence.

Court of Final Appeal. File photo: GovHK.

“We can’t see what principles the chief executive bases [their decision] on when appointing those judges. Is it based on nationality, patriotism, or other factors?” Chan asked.

The University of Hong Kong law professor also slammed plans to give jurisdiction to Chinese authorities in some cases involving threats to national security threats. He said it would “seriously deviate” from the Basic Law.

Members of the Standing Committee of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC) will hold a three-day meeting again on Sunday, according to state media.

While the proposed legislation was not on the official agenda, pro-Beijing figure Tam Yiu-chung – Hong Kong’s only delegate to the top legislative body – told state-run tabloid the Global Times Chinese legislators were highly likely to vote on the resolution during the next session.

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Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.