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Beijing Meddling with Hong Kong Basic Law
Joseph Mack

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Hong Kong government has asked China’s cabinet to interpret the constitution related to the term of office of the next chief executive succeeding Tung Chee Hwa, who resigned last month with two years left in his term.
According to Hong Kong’s constitution as written in the Basic Law, the chief executive’s term is five years. But, no provision is allowed for when a leader resigns before the term is up.

“It is absolute necessary,” Wen Jiabao said, “for the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress to interpret the law. It is of benefit to both China and Hong Kong.”

It is thought that Beijing favors a two-year term so it can test the loyalties of acting chief executive Donald Tsang, who was knighted (KBE) from the British Sovereign in June 1997. A shorter term would also mean that Beijing’s allies can go ahead with plans to field their own candidates for the scheduled 2007 selection of the chief executive.

Ronny Tong, a prominent pro-democracy lawmaker and lawyer, said on Friday April 8 that he would meet a Chinese delegation, headed by Qiao Xiaoyang, deputy secretary-general of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.

“I will ask them not to exercise their power of interpretation because it damages the ‘one country, two systems’ and the rule of law in Hong Kong,” Tong told Reuters.

Tong also said he would ask Beijing to set up an open and transparent mechanism whereby Hong Kong people can participate and deal with problems that crop up in the Basic Law.

The interpretation or decision is expected to take place in about three weeks. It would be the third time Beijing has tinkered with Hong Kong’s constitution since the handover; a move that critics say shakes the foundation of the rule of law here.

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