The government has sought temporary court approval for its controversial powers to conduct interception and surveillance as it faces a constitutional challenge by human rights advocates. Senior assistant director of public prosecutions Kevin Zervos SC yesterday appealed to High Court judge Michael Hartmann for 'the remedy of temporary validity'. This is a legal tool to temporarily uphold an executive order of the chief executive and of section 33 of the Telecommunications Ordinance, which allow phone-tapping by law enforcement agencies, even if the court finds both are unconstitutional. Mr Zervos said there was a strong case to invoke such a tool to avoid a legal vacuum while new legislation was enacted. He told the Court of First Instance: 'The inability of law enforcement agencies to intercept would bring serious consequences [for] the safety of citizens, public security and law and order.' Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen announced in August he was issuing an executive order to regulate the use of covert surveillance, calling it an interim measure pending legislation, after two District Court judges had called such surveillance unconstitutional. Legislator 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung, who initiated the legal battle with fellow activist Koo Sze-yiu, said the government should be prepared to fight the case all the way to the Court of Final Appeal rather than ask for protection if it lost in the lower court. The judge adjourned his decision until next week. Meanwhile, Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor gave a cautious welcome to the government's proposals to regulate covert surveillance but said they still allowed too big a role for the executive. Its director, Law Yuk-kai, said the proposals 'had generally tried to incorporate internationally recognised protections' by giving the judiciary scrutiny over clandestine spying operations. 'But we think authority should be given to the judges to authorise all covert surveillance, including less intrusive cases.'