HK judge cautious on calls for judicial reform

Hong Kong Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma speaks to reporters at a news conference in the territory yesterday, ahead of his retirement on Sunday. Photo: AFP

Hong Kong’s outgoing top judge said on Tuesday that calls for reform of the city’s judiciary cannot be based on dissatisfaction with court rulings, as China state media and a growing host of pro-Beijing figures call for an overhaul of how the financial hub’s courts are run.

Hong Kong’s chief justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li said he did not object to a judicial reform but stressed that people must make a good case for such changes.

“(The) judiciary’s position has all along been the same. If there’s any room for improvement, we will pursue it. We will consider it,” Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma said at a news conference ahead of his retirement on Sunday.

“But it’s not particularly satisfactory if there’s a call for reforms simply on the basis of a result one doesn’t like,” he said. “It is certainly not a good starting point or acceptable to say ‘I want reforms to ensure that I will always get the result which I want.’”

Ma, who was born in Hong Kong and educated in Britain, said the judiciary was open to reform if it meant improving what they do.

Semi-autonomous Hong Kong owes much of its business success to a transparent and internationally respected common law legal system that stands in stark contrast with the opaque, party-controlled courts in authoritarian China.

In recent weeks,Chinese officials and state-owned media have accused the semi-autonomous city’s courts of misinterpreting Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, in ruling relating to last year’s pro-democracy protests.

Hong Kong employs a common law legal system, and its judiciary often makes judgements public in efforts to be transparent.