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Hong Kong’s chief mentioned he’ll ask Beijing to find out whether or not overseas attorneys can work on nationwide safety instances 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 Court docket 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 resulting from begin on Thursday.

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

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

When the CFA ruling went towards the federal government, Hong Kong Chief Government John Lee mentioned Monday he would ask China’s Nationwide Folks’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) to intervene.

In line with a press release, Lee needs Beijing to resolve whether or not attorneys who’re “not certified to practise typically” in Hong Kong can take part in nationwide safety instances.

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

“At current, there aren’t 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 instructed 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 overseas governments, associations or individuals.”

This is able to be the sixth time the NPCSC has made an interpretation on Hong Kong’s legal guidelines for the reason that metropolis was handed over from Britain to China 1997.

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

Lai, whose pro-democracy tabloid Apple Every 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 guide his protection, which sparked a authorized debate over whether or not overseas attorneys ought to take up authorized illustration on nationwide safety legislation instances.

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

Because the handover, Hong Kong has maintained the frequent legislation system inherited from British rule.

Its unbiased judiciary and rule of legislation have lengthy been deemed key to the town’s success as a worldwide monetary heart. Town’s authorized system permits abroad judges within the metropolis’s courts, and attorneys from different frequent legislation jurisdictions can work on instances the place their experience is required.

Nonetheless, China’s ruling Communist Occasion moved to carry Hong Kong consistent 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.

Circumstances beneath 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.


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