THE rule of law is not a matter for party politics or sectional interests. It is a key the foundation of our freedoms and the preservation of the Hong Kong way of life guaranteed after the handover. As such, it should enjoy the support of the whole community - and, indeed, it would be difficult to find anybody who would speak out openly against it. On the other hand, what has been striking in the controversy over the right of abode verdict and the Government's request for interpretation of the Basic Law has been the silence of some significant sections of the community, notably the business world and politicians associated with it, both in the ranks of independents and of the Liberal Party. That party's former chairman, Allen Lee Peng-fei, was loudly applauded at a forum yesterday when he questioned the Government's action, and the attitude both of the Liberals and of the Law Society. Mr Lee has been right to speak out recently on this issue, and his past as the leader of the main pro-business party should give his words added weight. It is not as if the business world here can be in any doubt about how important the rule of law is for its own activities. This is something which the mainland authorities also appear to recognise, however strange the workings of the common law may be for them. It is, for instance, widely held that the resolution of the controversy over the Court of Final Appeal was resolved, in part at least, because the business community here made it clear to Beijing that Hong Kong's future as a commercial and financial centre would be undermined if the rule of law was seen to have been weakened. That remains the case. There are eminently practical aspects to this: without our legal system and practice, Hong Kong would not enjoy the international business status that helps it attract foreign companies despite its high costs. This is more than enough reason for the business community and its representatives in the Legislative Council to reaffirm their attachment to the rule of law. If they do not do so, the danger is that it will come to be seen as a cause belonging to the pro-democracy camp, and thus as a partisan political issue. The issue is far too important for that to happen. This should be a simple matter on which the whole community can unite and make its views known. That this has not been more widely done is a matter for concern. Silence is not enough.