Hong Kong Judges

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Some Hong Kong judges fear they are being put on a collision course with Beijing as the special administrative region’s government pushes for sweeping legal changes that would for the first time allow fugitives captured in Hong Kong to be sent to mainland China for trial. Three senior judges and 12 leading commercial and criminal lawyers say the changes, called the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance amendment bill, mark one of the starkest challenges to Hong Kong’s legal system and are increasingly troubling its business, political and diplomatic communities. It is the first time judges – who by convention don’t comment on political or legislative matters – have discussed the issue publicly. The city’s independent legal system was guaranteed under the laws governing Hong Kong’s return from British to Chinese rule 22 years ago and is seen by the financial hub’s business and diplomatic communities as its strongest remaining asset amid encroachments from Beijing. Hong Kong’s extensive autonomy is guaranteed until 2047. The judges and lawyers say that under Hong Kong’s British-based common law system, extraditions are based on the presumption of a fair trial and humane punishment in the receiving country – a core trust they say China’s Communist Party-controlled legal system has not earned. “These amendments ignore the importance of that trust – and in the case of the mainland, it simply doesn’t exist,” one highly experienced judge told Reuters on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. “Many of us see this as unworkable,” the judge…

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