Press Release

26 June 1999

The announcement by the NPC Standing Committee that it is " interpreting" the Basic Law so as to overule the judgment of the Court of Final Appeal was a certainty as soon as the State Council had announced that it would ask the Standing Committee to do so.

That is because the Standing Committee is a rubber stamp body which does what it is told.. Tragically, final adjudication for Hong Kong's court system now rests with this body and not with the Court of Final Appeal. The promise of final adjudication in Hong Kong made in the Joint Declaration has been broken.

In his press conference today Mr Tung chose to criticise those, like Human Rights Monitor, who have told the world the truth about what the Government is doing. We will continue to expose the distortions, half truths and ignorant assertions by which the Government tries to justify itself.

The Government has claimed that "Hong Kong common-lawyers need to learn to understand China's civil law system."This is nonsense. China does not have a civil law system. What has been done by the SCNPC today would never be permitted in France or Germany, the world's 2 leading civil law systems. China has a Communist legal system similar to that of the former Soviet Union, that is a legal system with the outward appearances of the law, but no real rule of law. The Soviet Union had a constitution full of nice phrases about rights, but they were no use because executive bodies like the Standing Committee took the real decisions. That is the road on which Hong Kong is now heading. Reputable Mainland legal scholars have called for the NPC Standing Committee's power of legislative interpretation to be abolished as not compatible with a real legal system. A Basic Law subject to such interpretation is no protection against state power.

The Government has misled what Mr Tung called "mainstream opinion" with its scare tactics about numbers of migrants. It has never explained properly why it could not amend the Basic Law to restrict the "second generation" migrants who were most of those allowed in by the CFA judgment. Most people accept that restricting the possibility of a future right -- which is all that the "second generation" have at present -- may be reasonable. Amendment of the law is the normal course in such a situation where a court decision shows that a law is in an unsatisfactory state. The argument that it would take too long makes no sense given that the SCNPC "interpretation" will now cause lots of new court cases and consequent uncertainty until they are settled. What was the real reason for the interpretation route if it was not to humiliate and intimidate the courts.

Mr Tung in his statement today kept repeating that he cared about the rule of law. He seems to believe that if he keeps saying this people will overlook what he has actually done. He will go down in history for having fatally damaged the legal system which was Hong Kong's pride.

* This press release goes out this evening to media in 12 countries.

1999 (c) Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor