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Thursday, November 10, 2016, 01:07

Silent march by legal professionals draws ire of think tank

By Luis Liu and Dara Wang

HONG KONG - A top think tank on Hong Kong affairs has criticized some of the city's legal professionals. It said they had deceived the public and spread misconceptions about the top legislature’s interpretation of the Basic Law to undermine the mini-constitution’s authority and the rule of law in the SAR.

The Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies was responding to a number of lawyers and legal academics in Hong Kong who staged a silent march on Tuesday against the National People's Congress Standing Committee's (NPCSC) interpretation over Article 104 of the Basic Law .

Article 104 outlines requirements for high-level public officials, lawmakers and judges in their oath-taking ceremonies. They contended that NPCSC’s move was an intervention in Hong Kong's independent judicial system.

Countering their arguments, Chen Zuo’er, chairman of the association and former deputy director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, said they had defied public opinion and ignored the common aspirations of Chinese people.

Speaking at a seminar held by the association in Shenzhen on Wednesday, Chen said their hostility to the interpretation resulted from insufficient knowledge of the city’s constitutional framework. This clearly states that the power to interpret the Basic Law is vested with the NPCSC.

Chen said they were attempting to use legal pretenses for political purposes. "One is free to express dissatisfaction, but should not label the interpretation as an 'intervention in the rule of law'. This is because it is the lawful, constitutional responsibility and right of the NPCSC," he explained.

And history showed that interpretations in the past did not affect the judicial independence of Hong Kong. Rather, they had built consensus and strengthened solidarity among the public, Chen noted. This is the fifth interpretation the NPCSC has made since Hong Kong's reunification with the motherland in 1997.

He urged relevant legal professionals to recognize the reality of Hong Kong as a special administrative region of China instead of acting as if they still lived in a colony.

Chen noticed a recent trend in which offenses that harm the country’s sovereignty and national security seemed to carry lenient penalties. Therefore, an interpretation by the NPCSC is urgent and necessary to improve Hong Kong's legal system.

On a separate occasion on Wednesday, Deputy Director of the NPCSC's Hong Kong Basic Law Committee Elsie Leung Oi-sie concurred with Chen. She contrasted the legal professionals’ biased behavior and defiance with the authority of the NPCSC.

She said that those people should not deny reality and the constitutional framework that defines what Hong Kong is – an SAR of China, and the NPCSC has the ultimate authority over legal matters concerning the fundamental interests of the SAR.

luisliu@chinadailyhk.com
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