An uneasy agreement on amendment bill

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 April, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 April, 2005, 12:00am

Legislators yesterday completed scrutiny of an amendment to the Chief Executive Election Ordinance, with some still concerned the changes will not comply fully with Beijing's interpretation of the Basic Law.

After six meetings of a bills committee with the largest membership since that for the national security bill in 2003, lawmakers reached an uneasy agreement that the two-section amendment should be put to a vote next month.

During yesterday's meeting, pro-democracy lawmakers repeated their calls that the wording of the amendment should be changed to ensure that the new requirement - that a successor to a chief executive who quits should only serve the remainder of his predecessor's term - could be changed after 2007.

Audrey Eu Yuet-mee, of the Article 45 Concern Group of barristers, said the government should simply copy the interpretation by the National People's Congress Standing Committee in order to minimise discrepancies.

'We should copy it to rule out any arguments in the future. Why should the government try to be clever and muddle the provisions?' Ms Eu said.

Democrat Martin Lee Chu-ming said the government wanted to 'lie' to the people with an unclear law so it could further its political agenda in the future.

The amendment proposes changing the law to state that if a vacancy for chief executive arises mid-term, whoever fills it will only serve the remainder of the five-year term of the original chief executive. It does not say whether this will also apply to mid-term elections after 2007.

The NPC Standing Committee's interpretation, issued on Wednesday, said if the election method were to change after 2007, this requirement could also be changed.

But Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Stephen Lam Sui-lung said the amendment should not copy entirely the NPC's interpretation, since Hong Kong should use local language in local legislation. He said the amendment adequately reflected the NPC Standing Committee's ruling.

The government refused to change the wording, and rejected a proposal by Legco legal adviser Jimmy Ma Yiu-tim which sought to clarify unclear areas.