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Australian Judge resigns from Hong Kong top court

It was announced in the government gazette published on Friday. Justice James Spigelman is the first senior judge to resign and publicly cite the law, passed by China’s parliament on June 30 without any Hong Kong legislative process or consultation. It has sparked renewed debate about the city’s judicial independence.

The controversy came amid heightened tensions between the Australian and Chinese governments, with Hong Kong also involved. Under the security legislation, HongKong’s leader Carrie Lam has the right to select judges for a panel of jurists to handle national security cases. In the most serious cases, suspects can also be taken to mainland China for trial in its courts.

It also grants extensive powers to personnel from mainland China’s security apparatus, who are now based in the city for the first time under the law. Foreign judges have long been a symbol of the city’s rule of law after Britain handed the city back to Chinese rule in 1997.

Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, known as the Basic Law, enshrines the independence of the judiciary and states that judges may come from other common law jurisdictions. But Lam and her officials have in recent weeks stressed that the city had no “separation of powers”, and that the powers of its executive, legislature and judiciary all derived from Beijing.

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