British judges have played an important role in supporting the judiciary in Hong Kong for many years. Since 1997 judges from other common law jurisdictions, including the UK, have sat on the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal as part of the continuing commitment to safeguarding the rule of law.
However, since Beijing's imposition of the national security law in 2020, our assessment of the legal environment in Hong Kong has been increasingly finely balanced. China has continued to use the national security law and its related institutions to undermine the fundamental rights and freedoms promised in the joint declaration. As national security law cases proceed through the courts, we are seeing the implications of this sweeping legislation, including the chilling effect on freedom of expression, the stifling of opposition voices, and the criminalising of dissent.
Given this concerning downward trajectory, the Foreign Secretary has agreed with the Deputy Prime Minister and Lord Chancellor, and the President of the UK Supreme Court Lord Reed, that the political and legal situation in Hong Kong has reached the point at which it is no longer tenable for serving UK judges to participate on the Court of Final Appeal. As such Lord Reed and Lord Hodge submitted their resignations to the Hong Kong authorities today. We are grateful for their service, and that of their predecessors.
The UK remains committed to stand up for the people of Hong Kong, to call out the violation of their rights and freedoms, and to hold China to their international obligations.