Secretary for justice hits back at critics and denies the rule of law is being eroded by U-turn on chief executive Hong Kong courts do not have the power to determine the meaning of the Basic Law's provisions on the appointment of the chief executive, according to the secretary for justice. But in the event of a judicial review, common-law judges should lean in favour of a two-year term, Elsie Leung Oi-sie said. Her remarks, released yesterday, aroused concerns that judges are being pressured to rule in favour of the government, which wants a two-year term for the next chief executive. Miss Leung hit back at critics for saying the rule of law was being eroded by a U-turn on a five-year term. She said the government would be acting against the law if it refused to amend its position after considering mainland experts' views and legislative history. 'We must admit our mistake and change our view. To do otherwise would be disrespectful of the rule of law. 'If we insisted on our earlier position, we would be encouraging the government to act in a way we believe to be unlawful,' she said on RTHK's Letter to Hong Kong. She said the appointment of the chief executive was clearly the responsibility of the central government, and an area outside the autonomy of the judiciary. 'Our courts do not have the autonomy to make a final decision on the meaning of those provisions. It is perfectly sensible to find out what mainland legal experts understand them to mean,' she said. Miss Leung argued that the common law system also allows judges to go beyond the legislative text, which apparently favours a five-year term. She said when there were two possible interpretations on the term of office, common law judges were entitled to lean against an interpretation that would produce an 'anomalous result' and to favour one that promotes human rights values embodied in the Basic Law. 'In the present context, I consider that they should therefore lean in favour of a residual term of office [a two-year term],' she said. However, legislator Ronny Tong Ka-wah, of the Article 45 Concern Group, said Miss Leung's remarks on the judges' options were inappropriate. 'I believe that Hong Kong judges are very strong and would not yield to pressure,' he said. The senior counsel said he failed to see how a two-year term related to human rights. 'It is true that when the constitution is not clear, the court will tend to make a ruling conducive to achieve the aspirations laid down in the constitution. But the Basic Law has very clear provision for a five-year term. The court cannot follow the government to turn clear things into unclear, twisting black into white,' he said. Miss Leung, in a veiled attack aimed at her critics, said: 'I cherish those days when I appeared in courts, and parties put forward their arguments and debated most fiercely, but courteously, what they believed to be true without vilifying utterances. 'I hope we can debate the issue sensibly and argue with reasons instead of resorting to phases like eroding the rule of law,' she said on RTHK. Meanwhile, Electoral Affairs Commission chairman Mr Justice Woo Kwok-hing said the row over the term of office would not affect electoral arrangements. He said the chief executive election would go ahead on July 10 even if there was a judicial review. 'We don't need any contingency plan. We will go ahead as planned, unless there is a court injunction prohibiting us from holding the election,' he said after touring a district council by-election.