What constitutional crisis? It's a waste crisis we face

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 October, 2010, 12:00am

The current deadlock between the Legislative Council and the executive is indicative of Hong Kong's stunted political system. Our chief executive is selected by a small circle drawn mainly from business groups, yet, with this narrow mandate, he is supposed to head an executive-led government without formal support from a political party in the legislature. Meanwhile, our legislature has become more affected by direct elections, and political parties which are ordinarily allies of the chief executive must now heed the concerns of the voters, especially over neighbourhood issues such as enlarging a landfill in their backyard. Hence the deadlock over an order signed by the chief executive to expand the Tseung Kwan O landfill by eating into five hectares of country park, and a motion to repeal the order backed by 55 of 60 lawmakers in a vote last week.

Now there is talk of a judicial review in which the constitutional powers of the executive will be measured against those of the legislature. Undeniably, this is an issue of grave importance, and lawmakers are right to express concerns about any curtailing of their powers to act as a check on the executive. The issue needs to be resolved in order for Hong Kong to make reasonable progress in its continuing political development. But that does not mean we should look to the courts to provide us with the answer.

Past and present chief justices have often warned the Hong Kong public against relying upon the courts to set policies. If officials and lawmakers are so concerned about the principle of separation of powers and good governance, one of the factors said to be behind this deadlock, then they would heed those warnings. Any ruling by a court will inevitably favour one or another of the parties, leaving it open to accusations it is taking sides. Worse, it could become an issue that requires intervention by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. This would further undermine our judicial independence and blur even more the separation of powers in Hong Kong. Instead, all parties should resolve the real issue - the management of our waste - after which we can continue political reforms without bothering the courts.