Hong Kong Courts are Learning to Live with China
19 Hong Kong Journal
11 Pages Posted: 2 Jan 2014
Date Written: July 1, 2010
The advent of Hong Kong's first new Chief Justice since the former British colony's return to China on July 1, 1997 together with the retirement of other judges from the Court of Final Appeal led to expressions of concern that this changing of the guard might weaken the commitment of Hong Kong's highest court to defend civil liberties, especially in cases involving China.
Geoffrey Ma, who became Chief Justice in 2010, had appeared to take a more conservative approach than Andrew Li, his predecessor as Chief Justice, in a famous 2004 case involving Falun Gong protesters in Hong Kong.
But any change in the approach adopted by Hong Kong's highest court, even if it does occur, is likely to be gradual and incremental. Even if the Court of Final Appeal under Geoffrey Ma's leadership occasionally chooses to compromise on legal principles in politically controversial cases, especially those involving Beijing, it will only be continuing a process that began as far back as 1999 when two landmark cases saw the court compromise to avoid confrontations with Beijing at significant cost to Hong Kong’s autonomy and, to a lesser extent, safeguards against restrictions on human rights.
Keywords: Hong Kong, Constitutional Law
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