The Basic Law will be changed by the back door if the Government persuades the NPC's Standing Committee to tackle the abode crisis by giving it a new interpretation, the Bar Association warned yesterday. Association chairman Ronny Tong Ka-wah, SC, said the move appeared to breach mainland legal principles and would set a dangerous constitutional precedent. 'You cannot pretend to change an established law under the guise of interpretation. I believe what the Government is trying to do is precisely that,' Mr Tong said. 'Even under Chinese constitutional law, that may well be inappropriate.' A team of lawyers from the barristers' association has conducted urgent legal research on the legality of a reinterpretation by the Standing Committee. Mr Tong said there was a weight of respected legal opinion among mainland experts that the Standing Committee did not have the power to reinterpret the Basic Law in the way the Government wanted. The part of the Basic Law in question, Article 24, was in clear language. To give it a meaning which takes the right of abode off children born out of wedlock would amount to an amendment rather than a re-interpretation. Mr Tong said only the full National People's Congress, which meets once a year, could take such a course. Professor Wang Chenguang, from City University, agreed that the issue was a controversial one, even among scholars on the mainland. He said the Standing Committee had in the past given a very wide interpretation of laws, even broadening the scope of a particular article. 'But certainly there has been some criticism that this kind of widening interpretation is a kind of amendment, not really an interpretation,' Professor Wang added. It was difficult to define the point at which an interpretation became so wide that it fell outside the Standing Committee's powers. He disagreed with concerns raised by the Bar Association that a reinterpretation could, in future, lead to tycoons asking the Standing Committee to change court rulings they did not like. 'Getting an interpretation is not that easy,' Professor Wang said. 'In the past, there have only been a small number. If there was an action involving a small group of people, I don't think the Standing Committee would want to get involved.'