June 26, 1999
NPC Standing Committee's Reinterpretation Inflicts Mortal Wound
on the Rule of Law
As pro-democracy legislators feared, the Standing Committee of the
National People's Congress (NPCSC) announced today that it has reinterpreted
the Basic Law in accordance with a request made by the Hong Kong Government
which, in effect, overrules the Court of Final Appeal (CFA).
Martin Lee, Chairman of the Democratic Party, was not surprised
by the reinterpretation and stated that although he had been hoping
for the best, he had been expecting the worst for some time already.
"This re-interpretation confirms that the Government has joined hands
with Beijing to form a conspiracy aimed at ruining the Rule of Law.
They have succeed in ripping open a gaping hole through which they will
attempt to make further incursions that threaten to destroy the high
degree of autonomy guaranteed to Hong Kong under the Basic Law."
Quoting a senior-level judge, Martin lamented "The Rule of Law has
been dealt a mortal wound."
After the CFA rejected the Government's interpretation of key provisions
of the Basic Law regarding the right of abode, the Government began
circulating an apocalyptic report forecasting that the CFA decision
would lead to massive immigration and tremendous economic burdens. This
propaganda was clever for it shifted the debate from questions of law
to issues of policy that resonate with the public. And now the Government
dares to accuse its critics - pro-democracy legislators, constitutional
law scholars and prominent members of the legal community who have been
defending the Rule of Law - as being the 'scaremongers.' Martin countered,
"Mr. Tung Chi-hua is the one who caused the damage and now he wants
to 'shoot the messenger.'"
Democratic Party Security Spokesperson, James To, commented,
"Reinterpretation is tempting because it promises quick resolution to
a complicated social problem. However, the best solution is not always
the most expedient. Allowing politics to interfere with legal decisions
will erode the certainty, credibility and predictability of our common
The Government had its day in court and lost. But it refused to accept
defeat. Like a child who was told 'no' by one parent, the Government
rushed off to Beijing crying for a different response. Beijing responded
by re-interpreting the Basic Law exactly as the Government requested.
Martin concluded by saying, "The message to the world is simple.
If the CFA rules in favor of the Government, its decision is final.
However, if the CFA rules against the Government and in favor of you,
then its decision is only semi-final."