Former Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin Retires From Controversial Hong Kong Court

Canada’s former Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin has announced her retirement from the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal (CFA) after six years in her appointment as judge.Ms. McLachlin, who served as Canada’s chief justice from 2000 to 2017, was first appointed as a non-permanent judge in the Hong Kong CFA in 2018, and was re-appointed in 2021. In a statement released on June 10, she announced her plans to step down from the bench when her term ends on July 29.Ms. McLachlin, 80, cited her age and a desire to spend more time with family as reasons for her departure.“It has been a privilege serving the people of Hong Kong. I continue to have confidence in the members of the Court, their independence, and their determination to uphold the rule of law,” Ms. McLachlin said.Since joining the court, Ms. McLachlin has faced calls to resign amid Hong Kong’s deteriorating civil liberties following the introduction of the contentious national security law in 2020.The national security law was introduced in response to massive protests in the territory a year earlier, sparked by concerns over a proposed extradition bill. The bill sought to enable the extradition of Hong Kongers to mainland China, raising fears among residents and the international community about the erosion of the territory’s autonomy and the potential for individuals, particularly critics of Beijing, to be subject to China’s opaque legal system, which lacks many of the due process protections afforded in Hong Kong.Related StoriesWhile the extradition bill was formally withdrawn in October 2019, the national security law came into force on June 30, 2020, establishing four areas of criminal activity: secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign or external forces. Open speech and promotion of Hong Kong cession from China was also criminalized. Individuals convicted of such crimes face maximum sentences of life imprisonment.In accordance with its common law tradition, Hong Kong appoints foreign judges to its courts independently of mainland China’s party-led legal system. Ms. McLachlin’s departure will leave the Hong Kong CFA with seven overseas non-permanent judges.Ms. McLachlin defended her continued presence on the bench in a 2022 CBC News interview, in which she said that the Hong Kong CFA operates similarly to Canadian courts, with “no governmental influence.”Previously, foreign judges have resigned from the Hong Kong court in response to the city’s introduction of the national security law and other measures perceived as suppressive.In 2020, two foreign judges, Britian’s Brenda Hale and Australian James Spigelman, departed from the Hong Kong CFA, both citing concerns about the national security law.Hong Kong residents have protested Beijing’s increasing encroachment on the territory’s autonomy, guaranteed until 2047 following its return to Chinese rule in 1997. These protests intensified in 2019, triggered by a proposed extradition bill seen as eroding Hong Kong’s judicial independence. The movement evolved into a broader pro-democracy stance, with demonstrators advocating for greater political freedoms and reforms.Authorities responded with harsh crackdowns, including the arrest of democracy activists and the implementation of restrictive measures like the 2020 national security law. Since its enactment, authorities have closed down outspoken media outlets and arrested hundreds of pro-democracy figures.Recently, Canada, alongside the UK and the United States, expressed concerns over guilty verdicts handed down in a trial of 47 well-known pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong.Katabella Roberts, Lee Harding, and Lily Zhou contributed to this report.

Former Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin Retires From Controversial Hong Kong Court

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Canada’s former Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin has announced her retirement from the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal (CFA) after six years in her appointment as judge.

Ms. McLachlin, who served as Canada’s chief justice from 2000 to 2017, was first appointed as a non-permanent judge in the Hong Kong CFA in 2018, and was re-appointed in 2021. In a statement released on June 10, she announced her plans to step down from the bench when her term ends on July 29.

Ms. McLachlin, 80, cited her age and a desire to spend more time with family as reasons for her departure.

“It has been a privilege serving the people of Hong Kong. I continue to have confidence in the members of the Court, their independence, and their determination to uphold the rule of law,” Ms. McLachlin said.

Since joining the court, Ms. McLachlin has faced calls to resign amid Hong Kong’s deteriorating civil liberties following the introduction of the contentious national security law in 2020.

The national security law was introduced in response to massive protests in the territory a year earlier, sparked by concerns over a proposed extradition bill. The bill sought to enable the extradition of Hong Kongers to mainland China, raising fears among residents and the international community about the erosion of the territory’s autonomy and the potential for individuals, particularly critics of Beijing, to be subject to China’s opaque legal system, which lacks many of the due process protections afforded in Hong Kong.

While the extradition bill was formally withdrawn in October 2019, the national security law came into force on June 30, 2020, establishing four areas of criminal activity: secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign or external forces. Open speech and promotion of Hong Kong cession from China was also criminalized. Individuals convicted of such crimes face maximum sentences of life imprisonment.

In accordance with its common law tradition, Hong Kong appoints foreign judges to its courts independently of mainland China’s party-led legal system. Ms. McLachlin’s departure will leave the Hong Kong CFA with seven overseas non-permanent judges.

Ms. McLachlin defended her continued presence on the bench in a 2022 CBC News interview, in which she said that the Hong Kong CFA operates similarly to Canadian courts, with “no governmental influence.”

Previously, foreign judges have resigned from the Hong Kong court in response to the city’s introduction of the national security law and other measures perceived as suppressive.

In 2020, two foreign judges, Britian’s Brenda Hale and Australian James Spigelman, departed from the Hong Kong CFA, both citing concerns about the national security law.

Hong Kong residents have protested Beijing’s increasing encroachment on the territory’s autonomy, guaranteed until 2047 following its return to Chinese rule in 1997. These protests intensified in 2019, triggered by a proposed extradition bill seen as eroding Hong Kong’s judicial independence. The movement evolved into a broader pro-democracy stance, with demonstrators advocating for greater political freedoms and reforms.

Authorities responded with harsh crackdowns, including the arrest of democracy activists and the implementation of restrictive measures like the 2020 national security law. Since its enactment, authorities have closed down outspoken media outlets and arrested hundreds of pro-democracy figures.

Recently, Canada, alongside the UK and the United States, expressed concerns over guilty verdicts handed down in a trial of 47 well-known pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong.

Katabella Roberts, Lee Harding, and Lily Zhou contributed to this report.

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