The People's Daily yesterday defended the legality of the provisional legislature.
It said the Preparatory Committee had been empowered by a 1994 National People's Congress resolution to prepare for the setting up of the Special Administrative Region and 'related matters'.
'This is a wide and extensive and clear legal concept. As a matter of course, the establishment of the provisional legislature is a 'related matter'.' The article cited the concept of 'residual powers' in Western jurisprudence to argue the legislature plan was lawful.
Under the concept, any powers not spelled out in law are considered residual powers vested with the sovereign power.
The article admitted the Basic Law did not provide for the setting up of the provisional legislature, but said the decision on its establishment did not contravene any provisions in the Basic Law.
The article came as rebel lawyers attacked the Law Society Council over what they said was a softening of its stance on the legislature.
They said the council had tried to avoid the argument of the handover body's legality.
Society president Roderick Woo Bun said after the consultation exercise by the Preparatory Committee last month that he doubted the legality of the provisional legislature.
The council then wrote to the committee, suggesting the National People's Congress endorse the establishment of the legislature.
But Yolanda Fan Pui-lan, spokesman for the Solicitors' Concern Group said the legislature was not provided for in the Basic Law. Its establishment would mean amending the Basic Law, she said.
Ms Fan said: 'Even Gladys Li, chairman of the Bar Association, said to us that she was surprised about the position of the Law Society.'