The president and deputy president of the Supreme Court have today resigned from the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal, citing the impact of Beijing’s national security law on freedom of expression.

Lord Reed said in a statement that ‘judges of the Supreme Court cannot continue to sit in Hong Kong without appearing to endorse an administration which has departed from values of political freedom and freedom of expression’.

Reed and Lord Hodge, the only two of the eight non-permanent UK judges who are currently serving justices of the Supreme Court, submitted their resignations this morning.

Foreign secretary Liz Truss said in a written statement: ‘British judges have played an important role in supporting the judiciary in Hong Kong for many years. Since 1997, judges from other common law jurisdictions, including the UK, have sat on the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal as part of the continuing commitment to safeguarding the rule of law.

‘However, since Beijing’s imposition of the national security law in 2020, our assessment of the legal environment in Hong Kong has been increasingly finely balanced. China has continued to use the national security law and its related institutions to undermine the fundamental rights and freedoms promised in the joint declaration [between the UK and China].

‘As national security law cases proceed through the courts, we are seeing the implications of this sweeping legislation, including the chilling effect on freedom of expression, the stifling of opposition voices and the criminalising of dissent.

‘Given this concerning downward trajectory, the foreign secretary has agreed with the deputy prime minister and lord chancellor [Dominic Raab] and the president of the UK Supreme Court Lord Reed that the political and legal situation in Hong Kong has reached the point at which it is no longer tenable for serving UK judges to participate on the Final Court of Appeal.

‘As such Lord Reed and Lord Hodge submitted their resignations to the Hong Kong authorities today. We are grateful for their service, and that of their predecessors.’

Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce commented: 'Judicial independence is paramount and we respect this decision. It is a matter for the UK Supreme Court judges, as well as UK and foreign retired judges to make their own decisions about whether to continue sitting in the HKFCA.

'Lord Reed referenced the adoption of the National Security Law in 2020 and that the position has been increasingly finely balanced ever since. This is an assessment which we share, and we have previously expressed our own concerns on the adoption and implementation of the National Security Law in Hong Kong.'

 Justice secretary Dominic Raab thanked judges who had served in Hong Kong on Twitter:

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