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H.K. Judicial Independence Not Undermined, Neuberger Says

Hong Kong’s judicial independence hasn’t been undermined by China’s recent policy statement about the territory, Britain’s top judge David Neuberger said.

“Judges here are as independent minded as those on the U.K. Supreme Court,” Neuberger, who has served as a visiting judge on Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal since 2009, said at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in the Chinese city today.

Lawyers in Hong Kong this month ousted the president of the Law Society after he supported a June policy paper from China that said Hong Kong judges were administrators who had to be patriotic. The paper was released ahead of a decision this week on how the former British colony will elect its leader in the future.

Neuberger said the word administration can be used to describe the activities of the legislative, executive and judicial arms of a government, as well as just to the executive. Patriotism isn’t incompatible with judicial independence, he said.

It is always right to be vigilant to protect rights and liberty, the judge said. He would speak out or resign from Hong Kong’s top court if he felt the independence of judges in the city was being threatened.

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