Given that the rule of law is repeatedly referred to as the very core of Hong Kong's rights and freedoms and the reason why the SAR continues to enjoy such international respect, it is alarming to see the system constantly under attack by critics displeased with the verdicts of the courts. In his column in the South China Morning Post yesterday, Shiu Sin-por, executive director of the One Country, Two Systems Research Institute, became the latest to join the chorus. He described the way the Court of Final Appeal judges refer to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in their judgments as 'judicial activism', arguing that this approach countermands the Basic Law by giving more weight to the covenant than to the mini-constitution. Some mainland officials are said to share his fears. The solution, Mr Shiu suggests, is for the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress to reinterpret Article 39 of the Basic Law, which decrees that the ICCPR 'as applied to Hong Kong' shall remain in force. It adds: 'The rights and freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong residents shall not be restricted unless as prescribed by law. Such restrictions shall not contravene the provisions in the preceding paragraph of this Article'. Debating the finer points of the law is a pastime best left to the legal profession; but it should be noted that the SAR Government accepts that Article 39 incorporates the ICCPR into the Basic Law. This was agreed in the December 1999 CFA hearing that ruled it an offence to desecrate the national flag. However, a more important issue is at stake here. At the heart of recent attacks on the Judiciary lies the philosophy that when the judgment of the courts fails to satisfy, they should be over-ridden by Beijing. Judicial independence is fine, it appears, so long as it upholds government policy, or what critics perceive as government policy, as the Government itself has not expressed such concerns. It may be difficult for mainland officials to embrace the concept of judicial independence, since an independent legal system has yet to take root there. But one fact is clear: further attempts to undermine SAR autonomy by striking at the courts can only damage Hong Kong.