Mainland law scholar says legal system is subservient to the mini-constitution The Basic Law does not give courts the power to strike down legislation, nor does it allow confidence votes in the legislature on ministers, a visiting legal expert from the mainland said yesterday. The power to interpret the Basic Law rested with the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, said Xiao Weiyun, a member of the Basic Law Drafting Committee. He was speaking at a forum on Hong Kong democracy and the Basic Law at the Convention and Exhibition Centre. He noted that Hong Kong courts had said they could declare legislation invalid if it was inconsistent with the Basic Law. 'On this point, we ... disagreed,' he said. While Professor Xiao did not cite any examples, the Court of Final Appeal, in its rulings on several right-of-abode cases, struck down various pieces of domestic immigration legislation on the grounds they were inconsistent with the Basic Law. He questioned whether it was in line with the principle of an executive-led government to give local courts such judicial vetting power. The mini-constitution says all Hong Kong laws must be consistent with the Basic Law. While it contains no provisions that direct the court to strike down inconsistent legislation, Article 158 says the NPC Standing Committee shall authorise local courts to interpret, on their own, provisions in the Basic Law that fall within Hong Kong's jurisdiction. But Professor Xiao said: 'We believe the power to vet whether laws are inconsistent with the Basic Law rests with the Standing Committee. 'It has no reference about giving such power to Hong Kong courts.' Independent legislator Audrey Eu Yuet-mee, a barrister, said she doubted Hong Kong people would share Professor Xiao's views. Democratic Party legislator James To Kun-sun said it would be disastrous if Professor Xiao was correct. 'It's like saying what Hong Kong has been doing over the past seven years was all wrong.' Professor Xiao also said the legislature had no legal powers to hold votes of confidence in principal officials. 'If government is not stable and can be toppled today or tomorrow, how can the economy develop? Therefore, no-confidence votes against principal officials are in breach of the Basic Law,' he said. 'Principal officials are appointed by the central government. But you demand them to step down. Are they conforming to the central government or to you [lawmakers]?' Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung Oi-sie and former financial secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung have both been the subject of confidence motions. While saying it was time everyone respected the Basic Law, Raymond Wu Wai-yung, a Basic Law drafter, would not be drawn on whether Legco President Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai had been wrong in allowing lawmakers to table confidence motions. Ms Fan said she had approved the moving of confidence motions based on Legco's standing orders and Basic Law Article 73, which allows the debating of 'any issues concerning public interests'. Ms Fan said that she would continue to allow or reject the moving of motions by legislators based on the rules.