Sydney and Beatrice Webb are rightly remembered in the UK and far beyond as leaders of the Fabian Society, builders of the UK Labour Party and creators of the London School of Economics.
Beatrice is reputed once to have been questioned about her supposed dominance of husband, Sydney, as they set about their social and political reforms. She responded briskly, by observing that Sydney made all the important decisions. She just decided which decisions were important and which were not.
The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress looks to have taken a leaf out of Beatrice's book with its interpretation of the Basic Law.
Installing yourself as gatekeeper at the entrance to any decision-making process is preferable to being stationed at the exit of that process. There is the slightly awkward fact that the Basic Law clearly places the Standing Committee at the exit gate of the constitutional development process for Hong Kong.
But the Basic Law also vests a power of interpretation in the Standing Committee.
So now we have this relocation - plus a new, most unsettling understanding of just how powerful this power of interpretation is, and seriously increased uncertainty about what difference there is between 'amending' and 'interpreting' the Basic Law. Beatrice Webb might have to acknowledge the tactical insight of the Standing Committee.
She would also, however, be aghast at the counter-democratic consequences of this move.
RICHARD CULLEN, professor of law,
Monash University, Melbourne