Former chief justice McLachlin says she’ll stay on Hong Kong court despite crackdown on human rights

Canada’s former top judge says she intends to stay on Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal despite government threats to civil liberties in the region.

Beverley McLachlin, who served as chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada from 2000 to 2017, told CBC’s Political power She renewed her position as a non-permanent judge last year because she believes the court remains independent.

Two British judges resigned in that court earlier this year, citing the threat to civil liberties in Hong Kong posed by China national security law that Beijing imposes on the region in 2020.

McLachlin told CBC News that so far, the court has had no interference from the pro-Beijing Hong Kong government.

“The court is completely independent and works the way I am used to [to] in Canada, the courts are active,” McLachlin told host Vassy Kapelos.

“There’s no government influence, and if there were, I wouldn’t be there.”

When asked about the resignations of former colleagues, McLachlin pointed to other judges who chose to stay.

Currently, McLachlin is one of 10 non-permanent overseas judges on the court, which is the court of last resort in the region’s legal system. The court was established in 1997 as part of an agreement between the UK and China.

The resignations of two British judges, Lord Patrick Hodge and Lord Robert Reed, were welcomed by the British government and condemned by Beijing.

McLachlin said if the remaining judges resigned, it would send “the wrong signal”.

“What Hong Kong needs, and lawyers tell us they need, is that the courts stay in place, stay independent and stay strong,” she said.

“Technically, at least, the Hong Kong government is independent of the central government [Chinese] government, and so far they have pledged to support an independent court. So we’ll see what happens. “

McLachlin added that she believes the courts still have a role to play in promoting democracy in Hong Kong. She said she hoped that governments in Hong Kong and China would respect any court rulings on national security laws.

McLachlin would not say whether she considers the national security law a bad one, and added that she may eventually have to rule on it.

She said she would leave the court if its rulings were not followed.

“I don’t see myself sitting on a court where the rulings are not respected, no,” she said.

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