Judge Yuen’s appointment was recommended last year by the Judicial Officers Recommendation Commission, a semi-independent body that reviews the positions of the Hong Kong judiciary, and should be approved by Carrie Lam, the city’s executive director, said the two, familiar with the events People .
Hong Kong’s de facto parliament, the Legislative Council, must approve the Chairman’s nominations for the highest judicial offices. In the past, this step was viewed as a formality.
But before Judge Yuen’s recommendation was finalized and formally sent to lawmakers for approval, pro-Beijing lawmakers, including Holden Chow and Elizabeth Quat, raised concerns.
The Legislature’s Committee on Justice and Legal Services, dominated by pro-propeking lawmakers, asked the judiciary and government officials to discuss the appointment.
Aside from her objection that Mr. Ma could continue to influence the court through Judge Yuen, lawmakers also said it took her a long time to pass judgments, according to a person who knows her way of thinking.
The politician’s inquiries resulted in Judge Yuen withdrawing her nomination, said two people with knowledge of the incident, the first known case of its kind. Judge Yuen directed all requests for comment on the incident to the judiciary, which refused to elaborate on it enter into.
The commission then elected another judge, Johnson Lam, to be appointed.
Insiders said Ms. Lam was not viewed as more conservative or liberal in his rulings than Judge Yuen, nor was there any evidence that lawmakers acted on Beijing orders in Judge Yuen’s case.
But senior lawyers worried that the Justice Yuen case could set a precedent for the pro-propeking-dominated Legislative Council to formally review the appointment of judges. This, in turn, could undermine the authority of the JORC, the legal appointments committee.
A senior legal personality said political scrutiny of appointments could result in judges being selected based on their loyalty to Beijing rather than skill and deterring the best candidates from standing.
The Yuen affair is a “very bad and worrying development for the independence of the judiciary,” said Johannes Chan, a law scholar at Hong Kong University.
“It provides a channel for political influence in the appointment of key judicial personnel by a [legislature] which is dominated by pro-Beijing politicians, ”said Chan.
Critics said the government’s decision last year to appoint separate judges for cases involving the national security law, introduced by Beijing after protests in the territory last year, already violated the perception of the independence of the judiciary.
The trial of Tong Ying-kit, the first person charged under the Security Act, was due to begin before these judges on Wednesday.
MPs Chow and Quat declined to comment on the Yuen case. Carrie Lam declined to comment but said that “all appointments of judicial officers by the chairman of the board are made in accordance with the Basic Law,” the mini-constitution of the territory.
Geoffrey Ma declined to comment.
The chairman of the judiciary administration and legal services of the Legislature, Horace Cheung, said he had contacted the government and the judiciary for “preliminary views …