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Former Hong Kong justice secretary in row over influence

By James Barnes

15 October 2012 at 12:23 BST

Hong Kong's former justice secretary has accused the former British colony's legal profession representatives of double standards, following their attacks on her comments on judicial independence.

Hong Kong: row over judicial independence

Hong Kong: row over judicial independence

Elsie Leung -- now vice-chairwoman of the Basic Law Committee, which was set up as part of the handover back to China and the creation of special administrative region -- hit back at the claims from the island’s Bar Association and Law Society that she had threatened judicial independence, stating she was exercising her right to free speech, reports the South China Morning Post.
The issue came to a head last week when Ms Leung claimed that the legal profession in Hong Kong, including judges, lacked an understanding of the relationship between Hong Kong and Beijing.

High quality judges

Ms Leung said: ‘There is not any case currently being heard in the court that may be related to what I have commented on. Absolutely, there is no question of me influencing a judge. Our judges are of high quality. They will not be easily influenced just because of one or two people expressing their views.’
She also pointed to a recent incident where academics had made criticisms of a case as it was about to be heard in the Court of Appeal, but neither the Law Society nor the Bar Association made a statement concerning judicial independence.

Caution urged

Both groups declined to comment further yesterday. However, Eric Cheung Tat-ming, associate professor of law at the University of Hong Kong argued: ‘The impact of views expressed by academics and that expressed by an influential figure is very different. No one would think the court might be influenced by views expressed by a man in the street. But Ms Leung is very influential. She is the deputy head of the Basic Law Committee.’
Hong Kong’s Human Rights Monitor also urged Ms Leung to be cautious with public comments.


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