Defuse crisis before China as a whole suffers

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 February, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 February, 1999, 12:00am

Article 158 of the Basic Law provides that the power of interpretation of the Basic Law shall be vested in the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. The Standing Committee in turn authorises the courts of Hong Kong to interpret the Basic Law in adjudicating cases. Nowhere in this article does it authorise any executive body of the central government to interpret the Basic Law.

Article 19 of the Basic Law provides that Hong Kong shall be vested with independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication. Article 85 states that Hong Kong courts shall exercise judicial power independently, free from any interference.

In the light of these provisions, it is difficult not to conclude that, when Zhao Qizheng of the State Council declared that Court of Final Appeal ruling on the right of abode was wrong, he was interfering in our judicial matters and, therefore, violating the Basic Law.

I believe that a careful reading of the judgment of the Court of Final Appeal on the right of abode issues will lead one to conclude that the court did not place itself above the national legislature. The hostile reactions to this judgment from Beijing and from Hong Kong are, to this extent, unjustified.

In this regard, I think Anthony Neoh's outstanding contribution ('A case of legal misunderstanding', South China Morning Post, February 9) is most helpful, both in manner and in substance.

The SAR Government, local NPC deputies and other members of the Basic Law Committee should follow in the steps of Mr Neoh to defuse this potential crisis with the central authorities promptly.

Any unwarranted damage to the authority and the independence of the Court of Final Appeal could strike a fatal blow to our 'one country, two systems' experiment, the success of which is vital for the future of China as a whole.

CHEUNG CHOR-YUNG Sha Tin The intrusion by Beijing into the Court of Final Appeal ruling on right of abode smacks of a blatant authoritarian act of undermining the judiciary independence of the SAR.

If Beijing is successful in forcing the ruling to be changed, Hong Kong people may as well bid a permanent farewell to the notion of the SAR governing its own affairs. In other words, the crisis would be more than the constitutional kind because, constitution or not, Beijing will see that it can easily get away with bullying Hong Kong into submission.

Hong Kong absolutely needs to fight this one. Unfortunately, I believe it will be a sad case of state suppression and Hong Kong will be one huge step closer to downfall.

YIU-CHUNG IP Edmonton, Canada