British judges have sat on the court since the former British colony was returned to China in 1997.
A national security law was imposed on Hong Kong in 2020, prompting complaints that Beijing was eroding the autonomy that had been promised when the former British colony returned to China in 1997 — and ruining its status as a trade and financial center.
Pro-democracy figures have been imprisoned. They include Jimmy Lai, the 74-year-old former publisher of the Apple Daily newspaper, which shut down under government pressure, and organizers of candlelight memorials of the party’s deadly 1989 crackdown on a pro-democracy movement.
The government said it was “no longer tenable for serving U.K. judges” to sit on the Court of Final Appeal because of the increasingly oppressive laws enacted by China.
The two British judges on the court submitted their resignations on Wednesday.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss says that “since the National Security Law was imposed, authorities have cracked down on free speech, the free press and free association. “
“The situation has reached a tipping point where it is no longer tenable for British judges to sit on Hong Kong’s leading court, and would risk legitimizing oppression,” Truss said.
She said the decision to pull British judges out out after many years in Hong Kong was taken by the British government in consultation with the head of the U.K. Supreme Court.
Conservative lawmaker Iain Duncan Smith, a longtime critic of the government in Beijing said “the government has done the right thing here, and not a minute too soon.”
He said the presence of British judges was “lending legitimacy to a regime hellbent on undermining our way of life.”
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