Beijing may be preparing to intervene in the controversy over how long Tung Chee-hwa's successor should serve, a commentary in a state daily suggested yesterday. The article in the Hong Kong edition of China Daily described a proposal for the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress to interpret the Basic Law as a 'pre-emptive move' that was 'worthy of consideration'. The article, signed Zheng Ping, said such a move would prevent political uncertainties that could 'damage the city's reputation and business environment'. 'The state's top legislature could step in to solve the problem once and for all,' it said. The article said interpretation could arise from a request by the Hong Kong government or at the initiative of the NPC Standing Committee. An interpretation could 'prevent the recurrence of a Link Reit-like debacle', the article said. The listing of shares in the Link real estate investment trust - which the Housing Authority is using to privatise public assets - was shelved at the last minute after a public housing estate tenant filed a legal challenge to the listing. The Court of Appeal declined to expedite the hearing of her appeal after the Court of First Instance had ruled in the authority's favour. Three months on, plaintiff Lo Siu-lan's battle for legal aid to fund her action means the Court of Final Appeal has yet to rule on the case. The Hong Kong government prompted fears of a constitutional crisis last weekend when it said the next chief executive, to be chosen by the Election Committee on July 10, would serve only the remaining two years of Mr Tung's term. Lawyers and pro-democracy legislators said the decision breached the Basic Law, which states that a chief executive should serve for five years. Some activists have said they may seek a judicial review of the decision, which will put the matter in the courts and may force the NPC Standing Committee to interpret the mini-constitution. Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung Oi-sie said on Tuesday that the government had decided the next chief's term should be two years on the advice of mainland legal academics. The China Daily article came just a day after pro-Beijing lawmakers told the Legislative Council an interpretation of the Basic Law should be considered. City University political scientist Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said the commentary showed Beijing 'is preparing for the worst'. 'An early interpretation would still be damaging, but not as bad as reversing a decision made by the courts in Hong Kong,' he said. The Bar Association feared that the fact Miss Leung had followed the advice of mainland scholars could mark the beginning of a trend. It said all differences of meaning should be resolved by the NPC Standing Committee.