Case involves nine defendants . . .
The Hong Kong government announced yesterday that David Perry, a British prosecutor, would be withdrawing from the prosecution of nine democratic activists for organizing and taking part in illegal assemblies in August 2019. The defendants include media tycoon Jimmy Lai and founding chairman of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party, Martin Lee. Last week, the Hong Kong Court of First Instance approved the government’s hiring of Perry as a prosecutor in the case, with the court noting that the trial could have “real and significant impact on the exercise of the freedom of assembly in the future.” The British lawyer previously represented the government in other high-profile cases, including the prosecution of former Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang for bribery.
Pressure mounting back home . . .
Perry’s withdrawal from the case followed mounting criticism in the U.K. for his decision to help Hong Kong’s government prosecute pro-democracy activists. Notably, the U.K.’s foreign minister, Dominic Raab, blasted Perry for acting like a “mercenary.” Lady Helena Kennedy of the House of Lords cautioned the British lawyer for “acting on behalf of the state in order to prosecute people under really questionable law that was produced at the behest of China and when the consequences could be very serious in terms of individual liberty of those involved.” The Hong Kong government characterized these criticisms as “ill-informed” and as conflating the trial with other cases involving Hong Kong’s National Security Law.
Judicial linkages . . .
The controversy surrounding Perry’s involvement in the prosecution of democratic activists highlights the growing diplomatic tensions between the U.K. and Hong Kong in light of the imposition of the National Security Law in mid-2019. Due to its colonial past, Hong Kong’s judicial system shares strong linkages with many common-law countries. There are 13 foreign judges currently serving in the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal, nine from the U.K. As tensions continue to escalate between Western countries and Hong Kong, there will be growing pressure for other foreign judges to resign from Hong Kong’s top court.
- The Guardian: David Perry QC quits prosecution of Hong Kong activists
- Reuters: UK considers whether to remove British judges from Hong Kong court
- South China Morning Post: Hong Kong justice department hires Queen’s Counsel David Perry