Hong Kong Justice Cheung Assures That State’s Judicial Branch Remains Autonomous

Chief Justice Andrew Cheung of Hong Kong stated, that the country’s independent judiciary system was existent and needed to be recognized. International figures like diplomats and judiciaries are watching developments closely. They are monitoring whether the judicial independence and capitalist way of life Hong Kong was promised when Britain handed over its former colony to Chinese rule in 1997, is really being carried out. This concern has grown due to the effects of the national security law China passed in June of 2020. This law has facilitated the ability to crack down on demonstrations of opposition and gives the Chinese and Hong Kong governments new expansive powers to oversee and manage schools, social organizations, media, and the internet.

According to the U.S. News and World Report, the first person convicted under the national security law, Tong Ying-kit, was sentenced to nine years in jail, on secession and terrorism charges after riding motorbike into a group of policemen while flying a protest banner with the words “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of our Times.” Despite the increasing worry, Justice Cheung assured that “the rule of law ensures and promotes fairness, equality, and justice, which are the core values in the administration of justice under our system of law.”

Hong Kong’s residents have experienced more freedom than Chinese residents living in mainland China, including an independent legal system and a free press, so its pro-independence citizens are intent on keeping those freedoms. In 2019, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, proposed a law that would send Hong Kong’s prosecuted criminals to be tried in mainland China. Following her proposal,  protests from citizens who wanted to maintain judicial independence erupted, leading to violence and conflict between citizens and police. Chinese legislators pushed back against protests with 2020’s national security law, which censored journalists, changed educational practices, and criminalized forms of insurgence or public display of dissent towards the Chinese government. 

All twelve political parties represented in the Legislative and District Councils are pro-Beijing, so it is essentially impossible for pro-independence citizens to be represented through them. Amid mass protests, there are still many citizens who are in favor of full integration with China to ensure Hong Kong’s economic prosperity. For some, stability and global power may take priority over the freedom of speech or assembly.

As of now, the remaining part of Hong Kong’s public sector that is still autonomous from the Chinese government is the judicial branch. Despite Justice Cheung’s remarks, it is uncertain now, how long that autonomy will last.