Hong Kong’s chief mentioned he’ll ask Beijing to find out whether or not overseas attorneys can work on nationwide safety instances within the metropolis, a transfer with repercussions for the upcoming trial of jailed pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai.
The announcement got here Monday, hours after the Court docket of Remaining Attraction (CFA), town’s highest court docket, upheld a decrease court docket’s verdict to permit British barrister Timothy Owen to characterize Lai in a landmark nationwide safety case that had been as a result of begin on Thursday.
Lai, 74, is essentially the most high-profile critic of Beijing charged underneath Hong Kong’s sweeping nationwide safety legislation and faces a most sentence of life in jail on expenses of colluding with overseas forces. He additionally faces one cost underneath a colonial-era sedition legislation.
The federal government had sought a “blanket ban” on overseas attorneys engaged on nationwide safety instances, besides in distinctive circumstances, which might have seen Owen faraway from the case.
When the CFA ruling went in opposition to the federal government, Hong Kong Chief Government John Lee mentioned Monday he would ask China’s Nationwide Individuals’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) to intervene.
In response to an announcement, Lee desires Beijing to determine whether or not attorneys who’re “not certified to practise usually” in Hong Kong can take part in nationwide safety instances.
Lee’s transfer follows repeated makes an attempt by Hong Kong’s Division of Justice to forestall Owen from representing Lai.
“At current, there are not any efficient means to make sure that a counsel from abroad won’t have battle of curiosity due to his (nationwide curiosity),” Lee informed a information convention. “And there are additionally no means to make sure that he has not been coerced, compromised or in any method managed by overseas governments, associations or individuals.”
This is able to be the sixth time the NPCSC has made an interpretation on Hong Kong’s legal guidelines because the metropolis was handed over from Britain to China 1997.
Lee mentioned the federal government will search an adjournment to Lai’s trial through the course of.
Lai, whose pro-democracy tabloid Apple Every day was pressured to close down after a police raid final 12 months, has been remanded in custody for nearly two years. He was sentenced to 13 months in jail in 2021 for collaborating in an unauthorized protest.
In August, the tycoon requested to rent Owen to guide his protection, which sparked a authorized debate over whether or not overseas attorneys ought to take up authorized illustration on nationwide safety legislation instances.
For the reason that handover, Hong Kong has maintained the widespread legislation system inherited from British rule.
Its unbiased judiciary and rule of legislation have lengthy been deemed key to town’s success as a world monetary heart. The town’s authorized system permits abroad judges within the metropolis’s courts, and attorneys from different widespread legislation jurisdictions can work on instances the place their experience is required.
Nevertheless, China’s ruling Communist Occasion moved to convey Hong Kong consistent with its authoritarian rule by bypassing town’s legislature to implement the safety legislation in response to anti-government protests that rocked town in 2019.
Instances underneath the laws are dealt with by a devoted department of the Hong Kong police and designated nationwide safety judges, elevating concern about Beijing’s potential affect on proceedings.
The Hong Kong authorities has repeatedly denied criticism that the legislation has stifled freedoms, claiming as an alternative it has restored order within the metropolis after the 2019 protests.