Not all Hong Kong judges have an accurate and full understanding of the Basic Law, according to a top law scholar and member of Beijing’s Basic Law Committee.

Rao Geping made the statement in response to China Liaison Office director Zhang Xiaoming’s controversial comment that the Chief Executive has a “special legal position which overrides administrative, legislative and judicial organs,” and that separation of powers “is not suitable for Hong Kong.”

Zhang Xiaoming speaking
Zhang Xiaoming speaking during a China Liaison Office “tea gathering” in June 2015. Photo: China Liaison Office.

Rao told Hong Kong media in Beijing on Tuesday: “I think it is not accurate to describe Hong Kong’s political system as separation of powers.”

“Should it be normal for Hong Kong people to watch judges giving a verdict based on inaccurate understanding [of the Basic Law]?”

He said it was a friendly reminder to some judges and that he was not trying to weaken judicial independence in Hong Kong.

Previously,  at the Ceremonial Opening of the Legal Year 2014, Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li stated that the principle of the separation of powers was clearly set out in the Basic Law.

Rao Geping
File Photo: Rao Geping.

‘Indeed transcendent’ 
Meanwhile, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said his position “is indeed transcendent”, ahead of a visit to Jakarta on Wednesday, a day after defending Zhang in public.

“In the political system of Hong Kong, the Central Government would only appoint the CE and the principal officials nominated by the CE,” Leung said. “Therefore, the status of Chief Executive is indeed transcendent.”

The Basic Law also stated that the CE would not only be the chief of government but also of the Special Administrative Region, he added. “All of Hong Kong’s powers and its high degree of autonomy come from the Central Government and through the Chief Executive it appoints.”

Leung said that this logic has been very clear since the Basic Law was drafted some 20 years ago.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.