This file photo taken on July 14, 2020 shows the Golden Bauhinia Square in Hong Kong. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

HONG KONG – The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government has firmly rejected the so-called “staff research report” recently published by the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China and the so-called “hearing” on the SAR situation making slandering remarks and despicable threats against the city’s judges.

Strongly condemning the report, the HKSAR government pointed out in a statement on Friday that it is most despicable for the so-called “staff research report” to name Hong Kong judges specifically with a threat of imposing so-called “sanctions” on them.

It described the threat as a shameless, sinister and malicious attempt to put spiteful pressure on the judges, to interfere with the judicial process and to undermine the system for the administration of justice in the SAR.

“This attempt has clearly exposed the hypocrisy and double standard of the US politicians concerned, who claim to uphold the rule of law but have, in practice, seriously damaged it with political manipulation put above the law. It is a serious violation of the basic principle of international law and international relations.

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“Since the implementation of the Hong Kong National Security Law (NSL) in June 2020, US politicians have been repeatedly exploiting different incidents and occasions, as well as creating excuses, to attack the Hong Kong SAR in its dutiful, faithful and lawful implementation of the NSL.”

The HKSAR government explained that under the NSL, the chief executive establishes a list or panel of judges for dealing with national security cases

US politicians’ “politically motivated attempts” to undermine the SAR's due administration of justice by repeating a lie as if it were a truth simply reflects their ill intent and amounts to nothing more than an indecent act, the statement said. “Such attempts will only expose the politicians' own weaknesses and faulty arguments and be doomed to fail.”

The HKSAR government also condemned the yet another attempt by Sebastien Lai to solicit foreign political powers to procure a defendant's evasion of the criminal justice process. It said it is equally outrageous that Kevin Yam, a solicitor of the High Court of Hong Kong, saw it fit to join this political farce to slander, and support the so-called “sanctions” against, the very court of which he is an officer.

In Hong Kong, the only criterion upon which judges are appointed is their judicial and professional quality, and their appointment by the chief executive under the Basic Law is upon the recommendation of an independent statutory commission comprising representatives of the Judiciary, the legal profession and distinguished figures of the community, said the government.

Under the NSL, the Chief Executive establishes a list or panel of judges for dealing with national security cases, it added.

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When adjudicating cases, regardless of whether the cases concern national security or otherwise, judges remain independent and impartial in performing their judicial duties, free from any interference.

The SAR government stressed that the arrangement on the designation of judges under the NSL does not undermine the impartiality of judges or the exercise of the independent judicial power by the city’s courts in adjudicating cases.

While considering whether to issue a certificate under the NSL for a case to be tried without a jury, the secretary for justice would take into account the relevant provisions of the NSL and the individual circumstances of each case, it said.

“It is well-established that trial by jury is not an indispensable element of a fair trial in the determination of a criminal charge. The purpose of the relevant provisions that stipulate the arrangement for a case to be tried by a panel of three judges is precisely to ensure a fair trial and the due administration of justice.”

Where three designated judges sit without a jury to hear a national security case, their verdict is given in a fully reasoned judgment which is published online for public scrutiny, it added.

“As guaranteed by the Basic Law and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights, defendants charged with criminal offences, including those under the NSL, shall have the right to a fair trial by the Judiciary exercising judicial power independently.”

While the NSL has put in place a stringent threshold for the grant of bail for national security cases, the law does not violate the presumption of innocence, the government said.

As a matter of fact, a number of defendants charged with offences endangering national security have been released on bail after the courts have duly considered the requirements stipulated in the NSL and relevant local laws, it added.

The SAR government emphasized that it will fully support and take whatever steps as may be necessary to ensure that all judges and judicial officers will be able to continue to discharge their duties without worry or fear about such threats.

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Separately, in response to media enquiries about the report, the Judiciary said it strongly condemns any attempt to exert improper pressure on judges and judicial officers (JJOs), including designated judges under the NSL.

It noted that any such attempt is a flagrant and direct affront to the rule of law and judicial independence in Hong Kong, as well as the JJOs, which is totally unacceptable.