The NPC Standing Committee cannot 'rewrite history' with its controversial reinterpretation of right of abode laws, the Court of Final Appeal was told yesterday. Denis Chang SC, for 17 migrants in a landmark case, launched the first attack on the validity of Beijing's decision to be heard by the court. He argued that the National People's Congress Standing Committee could not exercise its power of interpretation in relation to Hong Kong cases unless asked to by the Court of Final Appeal. 'Although the power of interpretation is vested in or . . . belongs to the Standing Committee, the exercise of that power is regulated by the mechanisms contained in Article 158 of the Basic Law,' he told the court. It was unconstitutional to backdate the effect of the reinterpretation to July 1, 1997, he argued. The case raised the 'absurd' prospect of the court asking the Standing Committee to consider whether the committee had itself acted lawfully when it made the interpretation. This, Mr Chang said, created 'a loop'. He argued that even if the reinterpretation was held to be lawful and could be backdated, it should not be used to reinstate removal orders which were made unfairly. He said: 'You cannot rewrite history. Although you apply the retrospective provision, you do not erase history. There are certain facts which exist whatever the law.' Mr Chang said the fact that migrants had been unable to apply for certificates of entitlement - needed to secure the right of abode - because the Government had failed to devise a workable scheme was not altered by the reinterpretation. The 17 applicants claim the right of abode in accordance with a January ruling of the Court of Final Appeal. But the Standing Committee's subsequent reinterpretation of the Basic Law, at the request of the SAR Government, in effect, reversed that decision. Removal orders made on the 17 were quashed by the Court of Appeal in June, before the reinterpretation. The Government is now challenging that ruling. Mr Chang said Article 158 of the Basic Law gave the courts final power of adjudication in cases. The Court of Final Appeal must refer to the Standing Committee issues involving areas that are the responsibility of Beijing or involve its relationship with Hong Kong. The court decided in January's case not to refer the right of abode case to Beijing. Mr Chang said even if the court decided the NPC's interpretation was lawful, it should not be backdated. That would mean people who had acquired the right of abode before the interpretation on June 26 would not be affected. The Government says this would mean about 600,000, and the migrants say about 200,000. The Government argues the court must follow the interpretation and backdate its effect to July 1, 1997. The case continues.