Hong Kong’s justice secretary has made an impassioned defence of his country’s legal system amid political unrest, insisting: ‘The rule of law and judicial independence are as good as before.’

Speaking in London last week, Rimsky Yuen admitted that questions have been raised about Hong Kong’s adherence to the rule of law and judicial independence since the publication of a white paper by the Chinese government in June.

Beijing asserted that it retained ‘comprehensive jurisdiction’ over Hong Kong in a move seen by some as an attack on the former British colony’s special status.

Hong Kong is the predominant legal centre for Asia-Pacific, with more than 80 foreign law firms based there, but critics suggest that the freedom which allowed such growth is now being undermined.

Yuen told the London Law Expo such concerns were ‘mistaken’, adding: ‘There is no evidence to support these assertions and the objective circumstances point to the other direction.’

Yuen alluded to the ‘unique’ arrangement in the Hong Kong court of appeal which invites a foreign judge to sit on a five-person panel. A total of 12 non-permanent judges from the UK, Australia and New Zealand sit in Hong Kong courts, including the UK Supreme Court president Lord Neuberger.

Yuen added: ‘Would these eminent judges be willing to sit in our court of appeal if they did not enjoy complete independence or felt any interference?’