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British judges departure a shame, but no surprise

There’s a whole lobby of people in the UK working hard to harm Hong Kong and this is simply their latest move, writes Grenville Cross

THAT LORD ROBERT REED and Lord Patrick Hodge have resigned from Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal is a great pity and a big loss but not a total surprise. 

Since at least 2019, British politicians have been calling for UK judges to quit the CFA, and a lot of political pressure has been applied to them, from all political parties. 

The people applying the pressure on the judges to quit are the same ones who lead the anti-China lobby in the UK Parliament, and they played a big part in the British government’s other hostile measures to hurt Hong Kong, including suspending the fugitive surrender agreement.

Reed and Hodge should be thanked for standing up to the political pressure for so long, but as both the ruling Conservative Party and the opposition Labour Party wanted them to quit, as well as the highly vocal anti-China media, they were clearly left with little choice. 

As the top judge in the UK, Reed clearly has to try to avoid getting caught up in controversy, as this can affect public confidence in the judiciary, and this will have influenced his decision to quit, thus ending the controversy. 


However, there are still 10 other overseas judges on the CFA, all retired, (six from UK, three from Australia and one from Canada), and political pressure will undoubtedly now be applied to them as well, which could be extreme. However, as they are retired, it will be easier for them to resist the pressure, and, as they are all people of courage and principle, we must hope they can do so.

Although we cannot say for sure if the two judges were pressurised to resign by the Justice Secretary, Dominic Raab, who has welcomed their departure, what we can say for sure is that, in January 2021, when he was still Foreign Secretary, Raab launched a vicious attack on national television on British barrister, David Perry QC, who was supposed to prosecute a trial in Hong Kong, calling him “pretty mercenary” and without “good conscience”, and this pressured him into withdrawing from the case.

Recommended: Read Grenville Cross’s earlier analysis of the system in which a team of international judges sit in Hong Kong courts — and find out why many of them are defending the legal sector in this city

Grenville Cross is a senior counsel, law professor and criminal justice analyst, and was previously the director of public prosecutions of the Hong Kong SAR. This article also appears in the China Daily Hong Kong.

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