Australian judge quits Hong Kong court over security law: report

Kyodo News

Posted at Sep 18 2020 10:24 PM

Police officers in riot gear patrol an area of Hong Kong where protesters had called for a rally against the government's decision to postpone the legislative council election and the national security law, on Sunday, Sept. 6, 2020. Thousands of officers flooded the streets to stop a demonstration that had been planned to show public anger over the postponement and the imposition of a draconian security law. Lam Yik Fei, The New York Times/File

HONG KONG - One of the Hong Kong top court's foreign judges, an Australian, has resigned from his post due to a national security law imposed on the city by China, Australian broadcaster ABC reported Friday.

The office of the city's leader, Carrie Lam, confirmed that the appointment of James Spigelman to the Court of Final Appeal was "revoked" after he tendered his resignation on Sept. 2, but it did not say why he quit.

ABC quoted Spigelman, one of 14 foreign nonpermanent judges, as saying that he had resigned for reasons "related to the content of the national security legislation," but did not elaborate.

Spigelman did not immediately respond to a Kyodo News request for comment.

His resignation comes amid concern over the contentious, sweeping national security law. The law, enacted and promulgated by China's parliament in Hong Kong on June 30, outlaws acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces and carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

A statement issued by the chief executive's office said that Spigelman "did not give any reason for his resignation" and also did not say who will replace him. His termination took effect on the same day he resigned, according to a government website.

Spigelman, a former chief justice of New South Wales, was appointed in 2013 as an overseas nonpermanent judge in the Court of Final Appeal.

Spigelman's resignation came a day after Lam stated that Hong Kong has no separation of powers between the administration, legislature and judiciary, which she said instead work collaboratively and are ultimately accountable to Beijing.

Western countries including Australia, Britain and the United States have said the law erodes freedoms and goes against the promise of a "high degree of autonomy" in the former British colony for 50 years after its return to China in 1997.

At least 26 people have been arrested on suspicion of breaching the security law, according to police figures.

Pro-democracy camp lawmaker Dennis Kwok told reporters that if Spigelman's resignation has to do with the law, "more foreign nonpermanent judges might follow suit," warning that "others might not want to be appointed, which would deal a huge blow to Hong Kong's rule of law."