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The Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal (HKCFA or CFA) is the final appellate court of Hong Kong. It was established on 1 July 1997, upon the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, replacing the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as the highest judicial institution under Hong Kong law. As defined in Articles 19 and 85 of the Basic Law of Hong Kong, the Court of Final Appeal "exercises judicial power in the Region independently and free from any interference." The Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal Ordinance and the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal Rules set out the detailed functions and procedures of the court.
|Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal|
|Established||1 July 1997|
|Location||8 Jackson Road, Central,|
Hong Kong, P.R. China
|Composition method||Appointment by the Chief Executive acting in accordance with the recommendation of the Judicial Officers Recommendation Commission with Legislative Council endorsement|
|Authorized by||Hong Kong Basic Law |
Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal Ordinance
|Judge term length||Until retirement age of 70 for the Chief Justice and Permanent Judges, but this may be extended by two three-year terms, meaning retirement age can be extended to 76; no retirement age for non-permanent judges|
|Number of positions||One Chief Justice, at least three permanent judges and at most 30 non-permanent judges|
|Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal|
|Since||11 January 2021|
|Court of Final Appeal|
Role of the courtEdit
From the 1840s to 30 June 1997, Hong Kong was a British Dependent Territory, and the power of final adjudication on the laws of Hong Kong was vested in the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London. The power to exercise sovereignty over Hong Kong was transferred from the United Kingdom to the People's Republic of China on 1 July 1997. Based on the one country, two systems principle, Hong Kong retains a high degree of autonomy and maintains its own legal system. The Court of Final Appeal was established on 1 July 1997 in Central, Hong Kong. Since then, it has served as the court of last resort; the court has the power of final adjudication with respect to the law of Hong Kong as well as the power of final interpretation over local laws including the power to strike down local ordinances on the grounds of inconsistency with the Basic Law.
The Court of Final Appeal is made up of the Chief Justice, at least three Permanent Judges, and at most 30 Non-Permanent Judges who can come from Hong Kong or any overseas Common Law jurisdictions. Under the Basic Law, the constitutional document of Hong Kong, the special administrative region remains a common law jurisdiction. Judges from other common law jurisdictions can be recruited and serve in the judiciary as non-permanent judges according to Article 92 of the Basic Law; to date, Judges appointed have served in the judiciaries of England and Wales, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. Aside from the Chief Justice, there is no nationality requirement for any of the permanent or non-permanent judges.
Allowing an appealEdit
Whether an appeal is allowed or not is determined by a panel of three Hong Kong judges, usually the Chief Justice and two other permanent judges. Should the Chief Justice or a permanent judge not be available, the other permanent judge or a non-permanent judge from Hong Kong may be called in. Non-permanent judges from other jurisdictions do not sit on such panels.
There is also a Registrar attached to the Court of Final Appeal, to help with review of appeal applications and other administrative duties.
Hearing an appealEdit
All appeal cases are heard by a bench of five judges consisting of the Chief Justice, three permanent judges and a non-permanent judge from another common law jurisdiction. If the Chief Justice does not sit in an appeal, a permanent judge is designated to sit in the Chief Justice's place, and a non-permanent judge from Hong Kong will sit on the court as well. Similarly, if a permanent judge is unable to sit, a non-permanent Hong Kong judge will sit in place of that permanent judge. Technically, should a non-permanent judge from outside Hong Kong be unable to attend due to extraordinary circumstances (such as during the COVID-19 pandemic), two non-permanent Hong Kong judges may sit on the court or sit via video conferencing.
As the role of a non-permanent judge is not a full time role, a serving High Court judge may be appointed as a non-permanent judge concurrently, such as Vice-president Robert Tang and Vice-president Frank Stock, as they were then known. This is extended only to the most eminent and senior serving High Court justices.
From its inception in July 1997 until September 2015, the court was located in the Former French Mission Building, in Central. In September 2015, the court relocated to the former (until 2011) Legislative Council Building, which was originally the colonial Supreme Court (1912–1985).
List of buildings usedEdit
The Cheung CourtEdit
The Cheung Court began on 11 January 2021 (1 year and 130 days ago]), when Andrew Cheung took over as the 3rd Chief Justice. Currently, 21 justices serve on the Cheung Court, including the Chief Justice, 3 Permanent Judges, and 14 non-permanent judges (10 of which are from other common law jurisdictions).
List of permanent judgesEdit
|No.||Name||Chinese name||Took office||Left office||Tenure length||Previous office||Inner bar||Appointed by|
|1||Andrew Li Kwok-nang, GBM
(Born 12 December 1948; age 73)
|李國能||1 July 1997||31 August 2010||13 years and 62 days||Barrister – Queen's Counsel
(Concurrent Deputy High Court Judge)
|QC (1988)||Tung Chee-hwa|
|2||Geoffrey Ma Tao-li, GBM
(Born 11 January 1956; age 66)
|馬道立||1 September 2010||10 January 2021||10 years and 132 days||Chief Judge of the High Court||QC (1993)||Donald Tsang|
|3||Andrew Cheung Kui-nung, GBM
(Born 24 September 1961; age 60)
|張舉能||11 January 2021||Incumbent||1 year and 130 days||Permanent Judge of the Court of Final Appeal||Carrie Lam|
|No.||Name||Chinese name||Replacing||Took office||Tenure end||Tenure length||Previous office||Inner bar||Appointed by|
|1||Henry Denis Litton, GBM
(Born 7 August 1934; age 87)
|烈顯倫||Inaugural||1 July 1997||13 September 2000[a]||3 years and 75 days||Vice President of the Court of Appeal||QC (1970)||Tung Chee-hwa|
|2||Charles Arthur Ching, GBM
(7 October 1935 – 30 November 2000; aged 65)
|沈澄||Inaugural||1 July 1997||6 October 2000||3 years and 98 days||Justice of Appeal||QC (1974)|
|3||Syed Kemal Shah Bokhary, GBM
(Born 25 October 1947; age 74)
|包致金||Inaugural||1 July 1997||24 October 2012||15 years and 116 days||Justice of Appeal||QC (1983)|
|4||Patrick Chan Siu-oi, GBM
(Born 21 October 1948; age 73)
|陳兆愷||Litton||1 September 2000[b]||20 October 2013||13 years and 50 days||Chief Judge of the High Court|
|5||Roberto Alexandre Vieira Ribeiro
(Born 20 March 1949; age 73)
|李義||Ching||1 September 2000[c]||Incumbent||21 years and 262 days||Justice of Appeal||QC (1990)|
|6||Robert Tang Kwok-ching, GBM, SBS
(Born 7 January 1947; age 75)
|鄧國楨||Bokhary||25 October 2012||24 October 2018||6 years and 0 days||Vice President of the Court of Appeal
(Concurrent Non-Permanent Judge of the Court of Final Appeal)
|QC (1986)||Leung Chun-ying|
|7||Joseph Paul Fok
(Born 24 September 1962; age 59)
|霍兆剛||Chan||21 October 2013||Incumbent||8 years and 212 days||Justice of Appeal||SC (1999)|
|8||Andrew Cheung Kui-nung, GBM
(Born 24 September 1961; age 60)
|張舉能||Tang||25 October 2018||10 January 2021[d]||2 years and 78 days||Chief Judge of the High Court||Carrie Lam|
|9||Johnson Lam Man-hon
(Born August 1961; age 60)
|林文瀚||Cheung||30 July 2021||Incumbent||295 days||Vice President of the Court of Appeal|
List of non-permanent judgesEdit
Current non-permanent judges from Hong KongEdit
Current non-permanent judges from other common law jurisdictionsEdit
|No.||Jurisdiction||Name||Chinese name||Took office||Tenure length||Prior most senior judicial role||Inner bar||Appointed by|
|1||United Kingdom||Lord Hoffmann, GBS||賀輔明勳爵||12 January 1998||24 years and 129 days||Lord of Appeal in Ordinary (1995–2009)||QC (1977)||Tung Chee-hwa|
|2||Australia||Anthony Murray Gleeson, GBS||紀立信||1 March 2009||13 years and 81 days||Chief Justice of Australia (1998–2008)||QC (1974)||Donald Tsang|
|3||United Kingdom||Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe, GBS||華學佳勳爵||1 March 2009||13 years and 81 days||Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (2009–13)||QC (1982)|
|4||United Kingdom||Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, GBS||廖柏嘉勳爵||1 March 2009||13 years and 81 days||President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (2012–17)||QC (1987)|
|5||United Kingdom||Lord Collins of Mapesbury||郝廉思勳爵||30 June 2011||10 years and 325 days||Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (2009–11)||QC (1997)|
|6||United Kingdom||Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers||范理申勳爵||1 October 2012||9 years and 232 days||President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (2009–12)||QC (1978)||Leung Chun-ying|
|7||Australia||William Montague Charles Gummow||甘慕賢||29 July 2013||8 years and 296 days||Justice of the High Court of Australia (1995–2012)||QC (1986)|
|8||Australia||Robert Shenton French||范禮全||31 May 2017||4 years and 355 days||Chief Justice of Australia (2008–17)|
|9||Canada||Beverley Marian McLachlin||麥嘉琳||30 July 2018||3 years and 295 days||Chief Justice of Canada (2000–17)||Carrie Lam|
|10||United Kingdom||Lord Sumption||岑耀信勳爵||18 December 2019||2 years and 154 days||Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (2012–18)||QC (1986)|
Former non-permanent judges from Hong KongEdit
|No.||Name||Chinese name||Took office||Left office||Tenure length||Prior most senior local judicial role||Inner bar||Notes||Appointed by|
|1||Sir Denys Tudor Emil Roberts, KBE||羅弼時爵士||28 July 1997||27 July 2003||6 years and 0 days||Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (1979–88)||QC (1964)||Inaugural justice||Tung Chee-hwa|
|2||Sir Alan Armstrong Huggins||赫健士爵士||28 July 1997||27 July 2003||6 years and 0 days||Vice-president of the Court of Appeal (1980–87)||Inaugural justice|
|3||Sir Derek Cons||康士爵士||28 July 1997||27 July 2006||9 years and 0 days||Vice-president of the Court of Appeal (1986–93)||Inaugural justice|
|4||William James Silke||邵祺||28 July 1997||27 July 2009||12 years and 0 days||Vice-president of the Court of Appeal (1987–94)||Inaugural justice|
|5||Kutlu Tekin Fuad||傅雅德||28 July 1997||27 July 2009||12 years and 0 days||Vice-president of the Court of Appeal (1988–93)||Inaugural justice|
|6||Gerald Paul Nazareth, GBS||黎守律||28 July 1997||27 July 2012||15 years and 0 days||Vice-president of the Court of Appeal (1994–2000)||QC (1981)||Inaugural justice|
|7||John Barry Mortimer, GBS||馬天敏||28 July 1997||27 July 2015||18 years and 0 days||Vice-president of the Court of Appeal (1997–99)||QC (1971)||Inaugural justice|
|8||Sir Noel Plunkett Power, GBS||鮑偉華爵士||28 July 1997||19 November 2009||12 years and 115 days||Vice-president of the Court of Appeal (1997–99)||Inaugural justice; died in office|
|9||Art Michael McMullin||麥慕年||28 July 1997||27 July 2003||6 years and 0 days||Justice of Appeal of the Court of Appeal (1979–86)||Inaugural justice|
|10||Philip Gerard Clough||郭樂富||28 July 1997||27 July 2006||9 years and 0 days||Justice of Appeal of the Court of Appeal (1986–92)||Inaugural justice|
|11||Neil Macdougall||麥德高||28 July 1997||27 July 2003||6 years and 0 days||Justice of Appeal of the Court of Appeal (1993–95)||Inaugural justice|
|12||Henry Denis Litton, GBM||烈顯倫||14 September 2000||13 September 2015||15 years and 0 days||Permanent Judge of the Court of Final Appeal (1997–2000)||QC (1970)|
|13||Charles Arthur Ching, GBM||沈澄||7 October 2000||30 November 2000||55 days||Permanent Judge of the Court of Final Appeal (1997–2000)||QC (1974)||Died in office|
|14||Robert Tang Kwok-ching, GBM, SBS||鄧國楨||1 September 2010||24 October 2012||2 years and 54 days||Vice-president of the Court of Appeal (2006–12)||QC (1986)||Appointed Permanent Judge||Donald Tsang|
|15||Michael John Hartmann, GBS||夏正民||1 September 2010||31 August 2016||6 years and 0 days||Justice of Appeal of the Court of Appeal (2008–12)|
Former non-permanent judges from other common law jurisdictionsEdit
|No.||Jurisdiction||Name||Chinese name||Took office||Left office||Tenure length||Prior most senior judicial role||Inner bar||Notes||Appointed by|
|1|| New Zealand
|Lord Cooke of Thorndon||顧安國勳爵||28 July 1997||27 July 2006||9 years and 0 days||Lord of Appeal in Ordinary (1996–2001)||QC (1964)||Inaugural justice||Tung Chee-hwa|
|2||Australia||Sir Anthony Frank Mason, GBM||梅師賢爵士||28 July 1997||27 July 2015||18 years and 0 days||Chief Justice of Australia (1987–95)||QC (1964)||Inaugural justice|
|3||New Zealand||Sir Edward Jonathan Somers||沈穆善爵士||28 July 1997||3 June 2002||4 years and 311 days||Judge of the Court of Appeal of New Zealand (1981–90)||QC (1973)||Inaugural justice; died in office|
|4||Australia||Sir Daryl Michael Dawson||杜偉舜爵士||1 September 1997||31 August 2003||6 years and 0 days||Justice of the High Court of Australia (1982–97)||QC (1971)|
|5||United Kingdom||Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead||李啟新勳爵||12 January 1998||11 January 2004||6 years and 0 days||Second Senior Lord of Appeal in Ordinary (2002–07)||QC (1974)|
|6||Australia||Sir Francis Gerard Brennan, GBS||布仁立爵士||28 July 2000||27 July 2012||12 years and 0 days||Chief Justice of Australia (1995–98)||QC (1965)|
|7||United Kingdom||Lord Millett, GBS||苗禮治勳爵||28 July 2000||27 May 2021||20 years and 304 days||Lord of Appeal in Ordinary (1998–2004)||QC (1974)||Died in office|
|8||New Zealand||Sir Johann Thomas Eichelbaum||艾俊彬爵士||28 July 2000||27 July 2012||12 years and 0 days||Chief Justice of New Zealand (1989–99)||QC (1978)|
|9||United Kingdom||Lord Scott of Foscote||施廣智勳爵||28 July 2003||27 July 2012||9 years and 0 days||Lord of Appeal in Ordinary (2000–09)||QC (1975)|
|10||United Kingdom||Lord Woolf, GBS||伍爾夫勳爵||28 July 2003||27 July 2012||9 years and 0 days||Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales (2000–05)|
|11||New Zealand||Sir Ivor Lloyd Morgan Richardson||韋卓善爵士||28 July 2003||27 July 2009||6 years and 0 days||President of the Court of Appeal of New Zealand (1996–2002)|
|12||Australia||Michael Hudson McHugh||馬曉義||1 July 2006||30 June 2012||6 years and 0 days||Justice of the High Court of Australia (1989–2005)||QC (1973)||Donald Tsang|
|13||New Zealand||Sir Thomas Munro Gault, KNZM||高禮哲爵士||1 July 2006||19 May 2015||8 years and 323 days||Justice of the Supreme Court of New Zealand (2004–06)||QC (1984)||Died in office|
|14||United Kingdom||Lord Clarke of Stone-cum-Ebony||簡嘉麒勳爵||30 June 2011||29 June 2020||9 years and 0 days||Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (2009–17)||QC (1979)|
|15||Australia||James Jacob Spigelman, AC||施覺民||29 July 2013||2 September 2020||7 years and 36 days||Chief Justice of New South Wales (1998–2011)||QC (1986)||Resigned mid-term||Leung Chun-ying|
|16||United Kingdom||Lord Reed of Allermuir||韋彥德勳爵||31 May 2017||30 March 2022||4 years and 304 days||President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (2020–)||QC (1995)||Resigned mid-term|
|17||United Kingdom||Baroness Hale of Richmond||何熙怡女男爵||30 July 2018||29 July 2021||3 years and 0 days||President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (2017–20)||QC (1989)||Carrie Lam|
|18||United Kingdom||Lord Hodge||賀知義勳爵||1 January 2021||30 March 2022||1 year and 89 days||Deputy President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (2020–)||QC (1996)||Resigned mid-term|
Article 158 interpretationEdit
The controversial power of final interpretation of "national" law including the Basic Law is vested in the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress of China (NPCSC) by virtue of Article 158 of the Basic Law and by the Constitution of the PRC; however, "national" laws which are not explicitly listed in Annex III of the Basic Law are not operative in Hong Kong.
Article 158 delegates such power to the courts of Hong Kong for interpretation while handling court cases. Although this arrangement has attracted criticism of "undermining judicial independence", an interpretation by the NPCSC does not affect any court judgments already rendered. This practice is highly controversial as it contradicts the power of final adjudication; the first time an interpretation occurred in 1999, all five judges (including the Chief Justice, all three permanent justices and one non-permanent justice) involved in the case of Ng Ka Ling v Director of Immigration reportedly considered quitting the top court in protest.
Instances of Article 158 interpretations are as follows:
- 1999: Right of abode in Hong Kong
- 2004: Modifying the process of electoral reforms regarding the election of the Hong Kong Chief Executive (Basic Law Article 45)
- 2005: Dealing with an incomplete term of a Chief Executive
- 2011: State immunity and the jurisdiction of Hong Kong courts
- 2016: Legislative Council oath-taking controversy
Kemal Bokhary replacementEdit
In 2012, Permanent Judge Kemal Bokhary - known as a leading liberal and dissenting voice on the Court - did not have his tenure extended past the mandated retirement age of 65. His replacement, however, was 65-year old Robert Tang, who was even older than Bokhary but was seen as more conservative.
China's National Security LawEdit
In September 2020, then-non-permanent judge James Spigelman resigned in response to China's controversial National Security Law being imposed on Hong Kong, but Spigelman did not elaborate further. In March 2022, both Lord Reed and Lord Hodge resigned as non-permanent judges, citing the National Security Law leading to the judges being unable to "continue to sit in Hong Kong without appearing to endorse an administration which has departed from values of political freedom, and freedom of expression, to which the Justices of the Supreme Court are deeply committed."
Maria Yuen nomination sagaEdit
In June 2021, Justice Maria Yuen was recommended for appointment as a permanent judge by the Judicial Officers Recommendation Commission. However the promotion was rejected by pro-Beijing legislators, in an unprecedented breach of the norms of an independent legal system. The legislators, who by protocol accept the recommendations of the commission, claimed that she might be influenced by her husband, former Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma, whose defence of Hong Kong's judicial independence they considered unpatriotic.
- Justice Litton began pre-resignation leave on 1 August 2000.
- Took office before the retirement of his predecessor, Litton PJ; hence the number of active PJ's was briefly more than the usual 3.
- Took office before the retirement of his predecessor, Ching PJ; hence the number of active PJ's was briefly more than the usual 3.
- Became the 3rd Chief Justice.
- "Court Services & Facilities – Court of Final Appeal". Government of Hong Kong. 9 January 2015. Archived from the original on 30 March 2015. Retrieved 20 June 2015.
-  Archived 16 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine
-  Archived 4 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine
- "Finance Committee – Public Works Subcommittee (Papers) 8 Nov 95". Government of Hong Kong. Retrieved 20 June 2015.
- Hong Kong Gazette Notice GN5815/2018
- "Appointments of non-permanent judge from another common law jurisdiction of the Court of Final Appeal and the Chief Judge of the High Court".
- "REVOCATION OF APPOINTMENT OF JUDGE FROM ANOTHER COMMON LAW JURISDICTION OF THE HONG KONG COURT OF FINAL APPEAL" (PDF).
- "Role of UK Supreme Court judges on the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal - update". 30 March 2022.
- "Appointment of non-permanent judge from another common law jurisdiction of the Court of Final Appeal". HK Government. 23 December 2020. Archived from the original on 23 December 2020.
- "All city's top judges 'considered quitting'". SCMP.
- "The decision by the Court of Final Appeal to seek an interpretation of the Basic Law from the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress regarding the controversy of state immunity raised in the debt litigation of the Democratic Republic of Congo" (PDF). LegCo.
- Ng, Kang Chung (5 November 2012). "Former judge Bokhary: 'I was ousted for being too liberal'". SCMP. Archived from the original on 30 October 2016.
- "Australian judge quits Hong Kong court, citing national security law". Reuters. 18 September 2020. Archived from the original on 18 September 2020.
- Hong Kong pro-Beijing legislators intervene in judicial appointment, Financial Times, by Primrose Riordan, 23 June 2021
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