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Wednesday, September 16, 2015, 08:29

Critics of Zhang misleading, irresponsible: CE

By Kahon Chan

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has condemned critics of Zhang Xiaoming, the central government’s top envoy in Hong Kong, for being misleading and quoting him out of context — as a Beijing-based Basic Law adviser explained that the speech had been a “friendly reminder” for the city’s judges.

Zhang, director of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the HKSAR, told a seminar last Saturday that Hong Kong has never adopted a separation of powers. He said the Chief Executive held a special legal status transcending the three branches of government — including the judiciary.

The remarks have since sparked considerable criticism from the opposition camp. Leung noted some commentators had spoken to the media even before the liaison office released a full transcript later on Saturday.

“Therefore (the comments) were quoted out of context and misleading. It is unhealthy for the discussion of such a serious topic. They were being irresponsible,” he said on Tuesday, before the Executive Council meeting.

Leung stressed that Zhang never mentioned that the CE “overrides” the judiciary and legislature. Leung said the separation of powers adopted in sovereign states could not be applied in the SAR because Hong Kong is part of China. He also pledged to always uphold judicial independence.

Basic Law adviser Rao Geping, in a separate briefing held in Beijing on Tuesday, said the SAR had fundamental differences from other places that had adopted a separation of powers. The Basic Law drafters had also designed a system with the executive-led principle in mind, he explained.

The principle was borrowed from the colonial regime for the sake of consistency and efficiency, Rao added. He characterized the city’s current political structure as being “executive-led with three branches of government to check and cope with each other”.

While it might not be academically accurate to say the CE holds legal powers “higher” or “bigger” than the legislature and judiciary, Rao said the CE was not merely head of the executive branch. This is because the CE also has control of the legislative agenda and appoints the SAR’s judges.

Rao said he had considerable respect for all judges in Hong Kong for their professionalism. But he believed some judges had misinterpreted the city’s constitutional settings in “some cases”. Rao appreciated Zhang’s speech for being a “friendly reminder” which helps set the record straight in regard to the judiciary.

Rao, a Peking University law professor and a member of the HKSAR Basic Law Committee, advises the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the country’s top legislature which is vested with the power to interpret the Basic Law.

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