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Hong Kong to ask Beijing to rule on use of international legal professionals in nationwide safety circumstances

Hong Kong CNN  — 

Hong Kong’s chief stated he’ll ask Beijing to find out whether or not international legal professionals can work on nationwide safety circumstances within the metropolis, a transfer with repercussions for the upcoming trial of jailed pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai.

The announcement got here Monday, hours after the Courtroom of Ultimate Enchantment (CFA), the town’s highest court docket, upheld a decrease court docket’s verdict to permit British barrister Timothy Owen to signify Lai in a landmark nationwide safety case that had been as a result of begin on Thursday.

Lai, 74, is probably the most high-profile critic of Beijing charged underneath Hong Kong’s sweeping nationwide safety legislation and faces a most sentence of life in jail on fees of colluding with international forces. He additionally faces one cost underneath a colonial-era sedition legislation.

The federal government had sought a “blanket ban” on international legal professionals engaged on nationwide safety circumstances, besides in distinctive circumstances, which might have seen Owen faraway from the case.

When the CFA ruling went in opposition to the federal government, Hong Kong Chief Govt John Lee stated Monday he would ask China’s Nationwide Individuals’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) to intervene.

In keeping with an announcement, Lee needs Beijing to resolve whether or not legal professionals who’re “not certified to practise typically” in Hong Kong can take part in nationwide safety circumstances.

Lee’s transfer follows repeated makes an attempt by Hong Kong’s Division of Justice to stop Owen from representing Lai.

“At current, there are not any efficient means to make sure that a counsel from abroad is not going to have battle of curiosity due to his (nationwide curiosity),” Lee advised a information convention. “And there are additionally no means to make sure that he has not been coerced, compromised or in any approach managed by international governments, associations or individuals.”

This may be the sixth time the NPCSC has made an interpretation on Hong Kong’s legal guidelines because the metropolis was handed over from Britain to China 1997.

Lee stated the federal government will search an adjournment to Lai’s trial throughout the course of.

Lai, whose pro-democracy tabloid Apple Day by day was pressured to close down after a police raid final yr, has been remanded in custody for nearly two years. He was sentenced to 13 months in jail in 2021 for collaborating in an unauthorized protest.

In August, the tycoon requested to rent Owen to steer his protection, which sparked a authorized debate over whether or not international legal professionals ought to take up authorized illustration on nationwide safety legislation circumstances.

British King's Counsel Timothy Owen at Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal on November 25, 2022.

Nationwide safety legislation

For the reason that handover, Hong Kong has maintained the widespread legislation system inherited from British rule.

Its impartial judiciary and rule of legislation have lengthy been deemed key to the town’s success as a world monetary middle. Town’s authorized system permits abroad judges within the metropolis’s courts, and legal professionals from different widespread legislation jurisdictions can work on circumstances the place their experience is required.

Nevertheless, China’s ruling Communist Celebration moved to deliver Hong Kong in keeping with its authoritarian rule by bypassing the town’s legislature to implement the safety legislation in response to anti-government protests that rocked the town in 2019.

Instances underneath the laws are dealt with by a devoted department of the Hong Kong police and designated nationwide safety judges, elevating concern about Beijing’s potential affect on proceedings.

The Hong Kong authorities has repeatedly denied criticism that the legislation has stifled freedoms, claiming as an alternative it has restored order within the metropolis after the 2019 protests.

CNN’s Eric Cheung contributed to this report.

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