Australian to sit on top Hong Kong court

A former High Court of Australia judge is preparing to be appointed to Hong Kong's top court and preside over some of the jurisdiction's most major cases.

The autonomous region's chief executive John Lee Ka-chiu accepted the recommendation to appoint Patrick Keane to the Court of Final Appeal bench on Friday.

Mr Keane was appointed a High Court judge in 2013 after serving as chief justice of the Federal Court.

The 70-year-old's appointment as a non-permanent judge will need to be cleared by Hong Kong's Legislative Council, which is stacked with China loyalists.

It'll be the first time a foreign judge is appointed since two British judges resigned from the court in March last year, saying their participation would appear to be an endorsement of the government's crackdown on freedoms.

Hong Kong sits as a special administrative region within China and operates under the "one country two systems" principle.

But Beijing has cracked down on freedoms within the region, passing a broad stroke national security law that makes it easier to prosecute protesters and dissidents.

Law Council of Australia president Luke Murphy said Mr Keane is an outstanding jurist.

But the president didn't offer an endorsement of the appointment, simply saying the council "notes" the decision.

He also noted that the Law Council had expressed concerns over developments in Hong Kong that undermine the independence and discretion of the judiciary, including the national security law.

"The retired Australian judges sitting on the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal sit on the court in their own right," he told AAP.

"The decision to accept an appointment as a non-permanent judge, serve a further term or resign is wholly their own.

"Judges should not be subject to any improper interference, inducements, pressures or threats, direct or indirect, from any quarter for any reason."

Three former Australian High Court justices are listed as serving as non-permanent judges of the court.

Mr Lee was quoted in the South China Morning Post as saying Mr Keane's appointment instilled a "high degree of confidence" in Hong Kong's legal system.

It also said the recommendation was likely to be given the Legislative Council's tick of approval due to its pro-Beijing makeup.