Hong Kong’s executive-led government system is being weakened by the rise in constitutional review cases, which in turn pulls the court into playing a bigger role in political controversies, a prominent mainland legal scholar has asserted. Professor Cheng Jie, of Tsinghua University Law School and a former Basic Law Committee member, also asked the Hong Kong government and the National People’s Congress standing committee to take into consideration possible legal challenge in case they are to deal with Hong Kong’s political reforms in the future. Her assertions were contained in an article published in the April issue of the Hong Kong and Macao Journal , a quarterly journal published by the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies - a semi-official mainland think-tank chaired by former Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office deputy director Chen Zuoer. Former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa cites lack of party politics for poor Hong Kong governance Professor Cheng reviewed 33 Basic Law court cases in Hong Kong between 2000 and 2007 contained in the Basic Law Bulletin published by the Hong Kong government. Although the city’s court had only ruled in nine of the 33 cases against the administration, Professor Cheng said some of the rulings had far-reaching implications, citing as an example the controversial Chong Fung-yuen case, where the court ruled babies born in Hong Kong could have the right of abode regardless the status of their parents. “Hong Kong’s courts now face more than at any other time in their history challenges which sometimes assume significant political and social dimensions,” Geoffrey Ma Tao-li, Hong Kong’s chief justice Another case mentioned concerned the chief executive’s executive order in 2005 to allow phone bugging by law enforcement agencies, which was ruled unconstitutional. “From the view point of constraining the powers of the legislature and executive branch, Hong Kong’s judiciary has obviously played an active role,” wrote Professor Cheng in the paper. Noting a rise in number of judicial review cases in Hong Kong, she warned it “has discreetly affected Hong Kong’s constitutional framework, weakening “the executive-led system devised for Hong Kong’s political system” and there were growing signs that “some controversial political issues are sought to be resolved through judicial proceedings”. “In handling cases relating to the Basic Law, the court will unavoidably get involved in political issues, and concerns have also raised over a judge’s personal preferences,” wrote Professor Cheng, who in the footnote mentioned Mr Justice Kemal Bokhary – a non-permanent judge of Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal – as a judge who tends to restrict the government’s powers in his rulings. According to government figures, the number of applications for leave to apply for judicial review has jumped from 103 in 2011 to 168 in 2014. And the number of leave applications granted also rose from 51 to 84 during the period. She concluded that “it cannot be ruled out that the controversy over Hong Kong’s political development would trigger Basic Law court cases”. “Therefore, the National People’s Congress standing committee and the Hong Kong government, the Legislative Council should take into consideration the court’s understanding and interpretation of the related provisions in the Basic Law and possible rulings in the future when they handle the development of Hong Kong’s political system.” Hong Kong’s chief justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li also said during a ceremony last week that “Hong Kong’s courts now face more than at any other time in their history challenges which sometimes assume significant political and social dimensions”. He reiterated that the courts’ role was to adhere to the law strictly and apply it “in an even-handed and principled manner”. Hong Kong’s judges must remain above the fray, as should Chinese leaders with their comments on our judiciary Professor Cheng also sparked controversy in Hong Kong in 2012 after she said that Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal should be made up only of Chinese nationals in order to reflect the principle of Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong. In a piece published in 2009 in the online “Hong Kong Journal”, a Washington-based quarterly, she also said the right of non-Chinese nationals to vote and stand for election in Hong Kong was part of the “international influence” that was “troubling” to Beijing. Professor Cheng was seconded to the Basic Law Committee under the National People’s Congress standing committee from 2006 to 2007, and was responsible for research relating to the mini-constitution of Hong Kong. She also claimed foreign influences were noticed during the July 1 march and in later elections.