A pro-democracy lawmaker says he is “worried” about comments made by Hong Kong’s new justice secretary on how the city should interpret its de facto constitution.

After being announced as the new secretary for justice on Friday, Teresa Cheng told reporters that society can have different views about One Country, Two Systems and the Basic Law. “However, if we… analyse the Basic Law which is promulgated by the National People’s Congress in accordance with the constitution of the PRC, we will ultimately arrive at the same legal conclusion.”

Teresa Cheng
Teresa Cheng. video screenshot via Facebook.

The Democratic Party’s Wu Chi-wai told reporters on Friday he was concerned this meant that the Basic Law is to be interpreted in a way decided by the National People’s Congress – China’s top legislature – and not the common law practiced by local courts.

“I think we all have to be wary about how Cheng will interpret what she said today in the future,” added Wu.

“From what she said today, I am worried that in the future she will resolve the contradictions in the Basic Law through the understanding of the National People’s Congress, causing One Country, Two Systems to fall further into a situation where the National People’s Congress Standing Committee has the final say over everything.”

According to Article 158 of the Basic Law, the Standing Committee has the final power of interpretation over Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, but local courts are allowed to interpret all the provisions within the limits of the city’s autonomy.

Last month, however, the Standing Committee explained the legal basis for locating a controversial high-speed rail checkpoint in Hong Kong where mainland laws would be enforced. The explanation – which cited several provisions of the Basic Law – was criticised by some in the Hong Kong legal community as having breached the Basic Law.

Wu Chi-wai
Wu Chi-wai. File photo: In-Media.

Pro-Beijing camp lawmaker Priscilla Leung told reporters she hoped that Cheng could use her arbitration experience to resolve disputes that would arise from the joint checkpoint arrangement, as well as the national anthem law – both of which will soon be introduced into the local legislature.

Her colleague Starry Lee added that she hoped Cheng would be able to deal with the challenges to the rule of law created by the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement and the emergence of pro-independence ideology.

Elson Tong

Elson Tong

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.