Australian Judge Quits From Hong Kong Top Court
Senior Judge James Spigelman resigned from the Court of High Appeal, the city's top court, giving no reason in his resignation letter.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam stated on Wednesday that an Australian judge on Hong Kong’s top court gave no reason for his resignation, a move that has raised questions about the semiautonomous Chinese territory’s reputation for judicial independence.
Judge James Spigelman told Australian media that his resignation was “related to the content of the national security legislation,” a reference to a sweeping new law for Hong Kong that was enacted by Beijing’s rubber stamp congress in June. He gave no details.
Asked about it at her weekly news conference, Lam said Spigelman in his resignation letter to her “did not mention at all any reason or any consideration in his decision, so I could not speculate on his rationale for doing so.”
The much criticised law was passed in Beijing after Hong Kong's legislature was repeatedly blocked from doing so by opposition among the territory's 7.5 million people, who were guaranteed their own legal, social and economic system for 50 years after the handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
The law was an outgrowth of the anti-government protests that shut parts of Hong Kong down for periods last year. It outlaws speech and writing seen as secessionist or subversive as well as collusion with foreign forces and disrupting transport and other services. Penalties include sentences of up to life in prison.
Hong Kong opposition lawmaker Dennis Kwok from the legal sector warned that more foreign judges would resign over loss of confidence in the rule of law in Hong Kong,
Hon. James Spigelman was chairman of the ABC and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of NSW from 1998 until 2011. He left Hong Kong court two years before the end of the tenure.