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Graham Perry
Graham Perry
Experienced Arbitration Lawyer | China & Chinese Business Affairs | Public Speaker/Lecturer.


An ongoing topical issue in China-UK relations has been the presence of foreign Judges in Hong Kong’s top court because of concerns about the national security law passed in 2020.

The UK has spent months reviewing the role of its Judges in HK amid calls for the Judges to quit. This was a legal issue + a political issue.

For the Judges it was legal – could their independence be maintained or were they to become a legal fig leaf to cover what the UK government referred to as a Beijing takeover of the Hong Kong legal system.

For the politicians it was political and a pull out by UK Judges would amount to a further step of “de-coupling” from China.

The decision was made on 27 August when two leading British Judges – Robert Reed, President of Britain’s Supreme Court and his Deputy, Patrick Hodge, – announced they would remain as non-permanent Judges of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal. Both Judges are serving Supreme Court Judges in England and their decision makes it more likely that retired British Judges working in Hong Kong will also remain.

Lord Reed says “At this time our shared assessment is that the judiciary in Hong Kong continues to act largely independently of government and their decisions continue to be consistent with the rule of law.” Reed noted the widespread support of the city’s legal community for foreign judges to continue.

This is a significant move by Robert Reed + Patrick Hodge and sends a significant message that the independence of Hong Kong’s judiciary is maintained and that the rule of law is preserved.   This is a setback for the anti-China UK House of Commons which had hoped the two Judges would withdraw and China would be isolated.

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