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A foreign judge on Hong Kong’s top court has resigned, reportedly over the sweeping national security legislation imposed this summer by China, the latest blow to the financial hub’s international reputation that could raise further questions about the stability of its judiciary.
Australian Justice James Spigelman resigned his position as a non-permanent judge of the Court of Final Appeal on Sept. 2, according to a statement from the office of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam.
His resignation was “related to the content of the national security legislation,” the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported, citing a brief interview with Spigelman, who did not elaborate. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a regular briefing in Beijing on Friday that he wasn’t aware of the report.
The resignation highlights growing concerns about the independence of Hong Kong’s trusted judiciary, which stands in contrast to mainland courts that are presided over by judges who owe fealty to the ruling Chinese Communist Party. The financial hub has already had its special trading status under U.S. law stripped away — and senior officials including Lam sanctioned — by a Trump administration set on punishing China over its crackdown on Hong Kong’s unrest.
The Hong Kong Bar Association has previously said it was “gravely concerned” about the content and introduction of the law, warning that the legislation would “undercut the independent exercise of judicial power by the Courts” in Hong Kong.
China bypassed Hong Kong’s Legislative Council and imposed the security law — which bans terrorism, secession, subversion of state power and collusion with foreign forces — in late June after unprecedented pro-democracy protests last year.
Officials in Hong Kong, as well as Beijing, have defended the law as a way to restore stability to the trading hub and said it would not infringe on the city’s judiciary.
However, foreign governments led by the U.S., as well as lawyers and legal academics, have said the law is deliberately vague, will erode key freedoms and criminalizes previously lawful dissent in the city.
— With assistance by Lucille Liu, and Natalie Lung
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