Major parties reject court delay

Louis Won

THE two main political parties have rejected the apparent deal to set up the Court of Final Appeal on July 1, 1997.

They say it should be established as soon as possible.

Liberal Party leader Allen Lee Peng-fei said yesterday that it was important for Hong Kong's legal framework and confidence in the rule of law that the court be in place quickly.

'The Court of Final Appeal should be set up immediately because the court should gain experience for the continuity of the rule of law beyond 1997,' he said.

Democratic Party chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming said the Government would be stupid if it agreed to wait until 1997. He said the Government agreed to the so-called four-to-one arrangement on the composition of judges sitting in the court in 1991 because it wanted to have the court up and running before 1997.

'If the Government agreed to delay the setting up of the Court of Final Appeal in 1997, I don't see why Britain and China need to have long negotiations on the setting up of the court before 1997.' Under the 1991 accord, the two governments agreed to limit the number of overseas judges to one in an overall panel of five for each court sitting.


Such an arrangement was rejected twice by the Legislative Council, which said more overseas judges should be allowed if necessary.

He said the Democratic Party, which has 15 votes in Legco, would amend the Court of Final Appeal bill if it included the four-to-one arrangement and delayed the setting up of the court.

However, Tsang Yok-sing, the chairman of the pro-China Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, said it no longer made sense to say the court should be set up as soon as possible. He said that even if the Government decided to set up the court immediately, it would not be up and running until next year.

'Let me ask what's the difference between having it next year and one year later?' he said.