National People's Congress right to interpret law must be used prudently
Victor Dawes, the chairperson of the Hong Kong Bar Association, said the Hong Kong national security law stipulates that the National People's Congress standing committee has the authority to explain the original purpose of the legislation, and such authority should be used prudently.
This came as chief executive John Lee Ka-chiu asked Beijing's legislative body to rule on a bid to block foreign lawyers from working on national security cases after the city's top court ruled that a British lawyer could represent jailed pro-democracy tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Dawes said the government’s move to seek an interpretation of national security law would definitely draw discussion and criticism regarding Hong Kong’s legal system.
He said the national security law is relatively new in the city, and he hoped any uncertainties with the legislation could be clarified by Hong Kong courts in the future.
Meanwhile, the chairperson disagreed with comments saying that seeking NPC’s interpretation of the city’s legislation has become a norm, with the top legislative body having rendered its interpretation of the Basic Law five times only since the handover.
He also noted that the government is playing by the books in seeking security law interpretation, which will not undermine judicial independence.
The president of the Law Society of Hong Kong Chan Chak-ming said he “fully respects” the power of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress to interpret the National Security Law.
“However, I am mindful that generally, legislative interpretations by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, albeit made legally, may affect the perception of our common law system by the public, particularly those who are not familiar with our judicial and legal systems,” Chan said in a statement.
He stressed that the bedrock to the rule of law in Hong Kong encompasses the trust and confidence of the public and the international community towards the judges and the judicial and legal systems, and he has full confidence in the independence and the role of the courts, the judicial and legal systems of Hong Kong under “one country, two systems”.
Separately, as it is unknown whether Beijing's interpretation will be made before Lai's national security trial, the High Court will hold a hearing on Thursday to discuss the Department of Justice's application to adjourn Lai's case.