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Monday, Jul 15, 2024

CE 'better judge of security risks than the courts'

CE 'better judge of security risks than the courts'

The SAR chief executive is a better judge of what constitutes national security than judges, Deputy Secretary for Justice Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan said.
That came as Cheung yesterday defended the power of the chief executive to decide whether a foreign lawyer not registered to practice in Hong Kong can take part in national security trials following Beijing's interpretation of the law in December.

"As we all know, when we talk about national security in a world context, it's not just about military security but often involves many other aspects, no matter whether it's technology, culture, or resources security," he said.

A proposed amendment of the Legal Practitioners Ordinance came after Beijing's interpretation of the SAR request to bar king's counsel Tim Owen to represent jailed media mogul Jimmy Lai Chee-ying in his foreign collusion trial.

On Friday, Secretary for Justice Paul Lam Ting-kwok said when an application is being considered, the chief executive will be responsible for determining if the court case involves elements of national security.

When asked whether the amendment would result in a de facto blanket ban on overseas lawyers, Cheung said it is in line with Beijing's interpretation to empower the chief executive to issue such permission and that every application will be reviewed on an ad hoc basis.

"The administration holds the most comprehensive facts and information, and the chief executive has done a good job in designing the system, and I believe the public need not worry about it," he said.

He added the proposed changes could prevent the law from being abused, and said the authorities had heard concerns that a defendant prolongs the judicial process by filing numerous applications.

"These issues often bring security risks to the country. So, in deciding what poses a national security risk, the chief executive is more suitable."

Despite the amendments, Cheung said Hong Kong is still better than other overseas jurisdictions, as the SAR is the only jurisdiction having an ad hoc admission system for overseas lawyers.

During recent official trips to Europe and Thailand, Cheung said he had heard arbitration organizations express interest in setting up centers and are planning to hold events here in the coming year or so.

He is confident our legal system can protect companies investing here and that the city is still competitive internationally.

Cheung welcomed visits to be made by Hong Kong Law Society and Bar Association to Beijing this month and next.

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