Canadian judge to quit Hong Kong top appeals court next month

FILE PHOTO: Canada's outgoing Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin takes part in a news conference in Ottawa

OTTAWA (Reuters) - A Canadian judge who sits on Hong Kong's top appeals court announced on Monday she would step down next month when her term expires and said she still had confidence in court members and their independence.

Beverley McLachlin made her announcement four days after two British judges on the court stepped down, the latest foreigners to leave the bench amid a years-long crackdown on dissent under a China-imposed national security law in 2020.

McLachlin, repeatedly criticised by some Canadian media commentators for not stepping down earlier, said she had turned 80 and would leave on July 29 when her term expired.

"It has been a privilege serving the people of Hong Kong. I continue to have confidence in the members of the Court, their independence, and their determination to uphold the rule of law," she said in a brief statement.

Since 1997, Hong Kong has appointed foreign judges to sit on the five-person court of final appeal for certain cases. The five judges are selected from a larger pool.

The two British judges quit one week after a landmark verdict in which 14 prominent democratic activists were convicted for subversion amid a national security crackdown on dissent in the financial hub.

One of the judges said the "political situation" in Hong Kong had sparked his move but added that he still had "total confidence" in the city's judiciary.

Britain, which handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997, says the security law that punishes offences like subversion with up to life imprisonment has been used to curb dissent and freedoms.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Andrea Ricci)