PWC proposal 'gross violation of Basic Law'

THE establishment of a provisional legislature would contravene the Basic Law and enable China to meddle in the internal affairs of post-1997 Hong Kong, legislators from the liberal camp said.

Councillors used the debate on the Governor's policy address to hit out at a proposal by the Preliminary Working Committee (PWC) to set up such a legislature.

Instead of commenting on the relationship between the Government and the China-appointed body - an issue addressed by fellow legislators in the debate - the liberals said the setting up of the PWC was as unlawful as its proposal for a provisional legislature.

The PWC has said such a body is needed because the legislators elected in 1995 would be sacked in 1997 when China took control.

The criticism was joined by pro-Taiwan unionist, Pang Chun-hoi, who said the idea of a provisional legislature showed 'contempt for the Basic Law'.

Chairman of the Democratic Party Martin Lee Chu-ming described the PWC as a monster created by China to defy the provisions and spirit of the Joint Declaration and Basic Law.

The proposal was a gross violation of the Basic Law which threatened the high degree of autonomy to which Hong Kong was entitled.

Even if the provisional legislature did only one thing - amending electoral laws - it would effectively enable the Chinese Government to keep out people it disliked from the future elected legislature.

It would be a 'puppet' open to Chinese manipulation, he said.

Fellow Democratic Party member Szeto Wah said the proposal was aimed at depriving unwelcome politicians of their rights to stand for elections.

'Has it [the PWC] ever said anything that is encouraging to Hong Kong people? There is a phrase 'a dog's mouth grows no ivory',' he said.

The provisional legislature was bound to enact laws to install new electoral rules and ban 'subversive activities'.

Mr Szeto said that because the provisional legislature was to be appointed by an appointed preparatory committee, it was set to show how strings were being pulled from a distance.

'With such a legislature, any law can be passed and any law can be repealed,' he said.

Its setting-up was tantamount to announcing the demise of the principles of 'one country, two systems' and a high degree of autonomy, he said.

But the Liberal Party's Steven Poon Kwok-lim said the PWC was an important body and it was in Hong Kong people's interest for the committee to have a good grasp of the operations of the Government.

He said he was puzzled by Mr Patten's claims that he had to intensify co-operation with China, yet at the same time bar civil servants from attending PWC meetings.

Mr Poon said the PWC was set up under the National People's Congress and had its own statutory status.

He questioned why Mr Patten had to treat the PWC as an outcast.