Hong Kong deputies in Beijing call for review of Basic Law and no more foreign judges

‘Preposterous and unconstitutional’ proposals dismissed by critics across HK’s political divide

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 March, 2017, 10:44pm
UPDATED : Friday, 10 March, 2017, 10:59am

The city’s mini-constitution should be reviewed and its implementation regularly monitored by the apex of the national legislature, according to two Hong Kong deputies in ­Beijing yesterday – whose controversial proposals were swiftly ­derided back home.

Speaking at the meetings of the annual parliamentary session, one of them, Peter Wong Man-kong, who called for the Basic Law review, said it could look into ­banning foreign judges from handling constitutional-related cases and for their recruitment to cease.

Another deputy, Stanley Ng Chau-pei, said the National ­People’s Congress Standing ­Committee’s existing mechanism to review the application of laws should extend its supervision to Hong Kong’s Basic Law to ensure its full and accurate implementation. This should include legislation of the contentious security law, Article 23, he said.

Critics across the political ­divide panned the ideas, with the pan-democratic bloc warning the “preposterous” proposals would destroy “one country, two systems”.

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Wong said the Standing Committee should comprehensively review the Basic Law to see which part of the mini-constitution should be amended, especially the section on foreign judges.

He argued that as judges’ foreign nationality meant allegiance to another sovereignty, it was “not desirable” to hire more of them or let them hear constitutional cases.

On Tuesday, Hong Kong’s ­former secretary for justice Elsie Leung Oi-sie dismissed a mainland expert’s call to review the high proportion of foreign judges at the city’s Court of Final Appeal. Judges, she said, should be hired on merit, not nationality.

In a separate interview with the Post, Ng said a new regular monitoring mechanism of the Basic Law’s implementation was the best way to ensure the “one country, two systems” blueprint would not go “out of shape”.

Ng, chairman of the Federation of Trade Unions (FTU), also suggested the chief executive should go beyond his annual duty visit to the capital every December to report his work to the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office.

“Shouldn’t the chief executive, who is responsible for implementing the Basic Law, report regularly to the Standing Committee regarding the city’s mini-constitution as well?”

Lamenting the slow progress of the passage of Article 23, he said:“The national legislature could swiftly right such wrongs when the Basic Law is not implemented fully or appropriately.”

Ng brushed off fears he was in effect inviting Beijing to intervene in the city’s affairs, as the central government was overall in charge.

But Civic Party chairman Alan Leong Kah-kit slammed his “preposterous and unconstitutional” proposal.

“This is a very dangerous attempt to shake the fundamental building blocks of ‘one country, two systems’,” the former lawmaker said. “If the chief executive is to report to the NPCSC, the NPCSC is blatantly expanding its power over Hong Kong affairs at the expense of the promise of our autonomy.”

Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said Ng was trying to add “illegal structures” to the Basic Law.

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“Basic Law already has the mechanism of giving the power of NPCSC to interpret the mini-constitution under prescribed circumstances,” he said. “There’s nothing in the document that says Hong Kong needs to report to NPCSC regularly.”

Lam also said he had not seen foreign judges acting with bias. “Basic Law provided for foreign judges’ participation in Hong Kong cases because Beijing wanted to give confidence to the international community and Hongkongers. The system has proved effective.”

Ng’s NPC colleague and honorary FTU president, Cheng Yiu-tong, poured cold water over his idea, pointing out the Basic Law Committee already did the task of reviewing the Basic Law mini-constitution and questioned the need to duplicate roles.

Additional reporting by Phila Siu