See More on Facebook

Diplomacy, Politics

Beijing’s comments on HK court decision could signal direct intervention

Beijing has rejected a Hong Kong court decision.

Written by

Updated: November 20, 2019

China has firmly rejected the Hong Kong High Court’s decision to overturn a controversial mask ban aimed at quelling violent protests, prompting experts to say the central government could soon act to ensure its constitutional authority over Hong Kong is not challenged.

China’s Parliament and Cabinet both issued statements early on Tuesday (Nov 19) morning that the ruling challenged the authority of both the Hong Kong authorities and the central government.

The response came a day after the city’s High Court ruled that the mask ban imposed by the Hong Kong government last month was unconstitutional.

Another senior Chinese official also hinted that the central government could make changes to the “one country, two systems” model under which Hong Kong is granted a high degree of autonomy, if things continue to “go wrong”.

Hong Kong has been grappling with more than five months of unrest, initially sparked by a since-withdrawn extradition Bill. This escalated last week when protesters holed themselves up in universities.

On Tuesday, the National People’s Congress’ (NPC) Legislative Affairs Commission, in a statement, expressed “serious concern” and “strong dissatisfaction”, saying that the High Court judgment has seriously weakened the authority of Chief Executive Carrie Lam and her administration.

“Whether the laws of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region comply with the Basic Law of Hong Kong can only be judged and decided by the Standing Committee of the NPC. No other authority has the right to make judgments and decisions,” said the commission’s spokesman, adding that it was studying suggestions by its members.

The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office under China’s Cabinet said in a separate statement that the judgment “openly challenges” the authority of the NPC and would create “serious negative socio-political influences”.

Under Article 158 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law – the region’s mini-Constitution – the NPC’s Standing Committee is vested with the authority to interpret the Basic Law. Hong Kong’s courts can be authorised to also interpret the Law while adjudicating cases, but this is ring-fenced “within the limits of the autonomy of the Region”.

Experts said this means the NPC has ultimate authority in the interpretation of the Basic Law.

“Some people are worried that the statement made by Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC is interfering in Hong Kong’s judicial independence, but… the power to interpret the law lies with the NPC. It’s very clear,” said Professor Xie Chuntao, vice-president of the Central Party School, which trains top communist officials.

Prof Lau Siu Kai, a top China adviser on Hong Kong policy, said the NPC could come up with a decision that says the ordinance invoked for the mask ban – which was ruled partially unconstitutional – conforms with the Basic Law.

“I expect the Standing Committee to act very soon… Beijing is now determined to use the powers that belong to the central government to make sure that national security is safeguarded and that ‘one country two systems’ is comprehensively and accurately implemented,” he said.

Beijing’s statements have come as a further sign of the mainland’s increasingly hard line approach.

Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo said Beijing “could not even wait” for the city’s government to appeal against the court decision before issuing its statements.

“It tells you that they are quite determined to overpower Hong Kong’s judicial system,” she said.

Hong Kong legal expert Willy Fu said the most appropriate course of action would be for the city government to appeal the decision with the Court of Final Appeal, the highest judicial authority in the city.

“This will be more acceptable by the people of Hong Kong, but the Court should ask the NPC Standing Committee to make an interpretation,” said Dr Fu, secretary-general of the Hong Kong Legal Exchange Foundation.

Meanwhile, Mrs Lam urged police to peacefully resolve the stand-off at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, where protesters have barricaded themselves.

“We’re extremely worried about the dangerous situation in the campus,” she said in a briefing on Tuesday morning.

The United States and European Union also urged restraint on all sides. US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on Monday called on Mrs Lam to allow an independent probe of protest incidents – a key protest demand.

Asked at a briefing whether Beijing would make changes to the “one country, two systems” framework, Prof Xie hinted that this could be the case if things “go wrong”.

“A good system should remain unchanged, but if a system is not good, we may make changes,” he said.

Enjoyed this story? Share it.

About the Author: The Straits Times is Singapore's top-selling newspaper.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia

Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.

By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Diplomacy, Politics

China-US trade deal bullish news for both countries, rest of world

From Chinese state media. State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Saturday that the China-US deal on the text of a phase-one economic and trade agreement serves as bullish news for both countries and the rest of the world. Speaking at a joint press conference with Slovenian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Miro Cerar, Wang said China has, as always, been opposed to settling economic and trade disputes by imposing tariffs as there is no winner in a trade war. China has also rejected the use of unilateral pressure as it violates the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO), said Wang. He pointed out that following rounds of back-and-forth negotiations, China and the United States have agreed on the wording of a phase-one economic and trade agreement, and the US side has promised to phase out additional tariffs on Chinese products. The agreement demonstrates the spirit

By China Daily
December 16, 2019

Diplomacy, Politics

Biegun arrives in Seoul amid deadlock in NK-US nuclear talks

Pyongyang says it conducted “another crucial test” at Sohae site. US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun arrived in Seoul on Sunday for a “close coordination” with allies amid the deadlock in the denuclearization talks with Pyongyang just weeks before the communist regime’s year-end deadline. A day before, North Korea issued statements to announce that it had carried out “another crucial test” at a satellite launching site, warning the United States to “hold off” any action to “rattle” the regime. During his three-day trip here, the US special envoy is expected to meet with officials here to discuss on the

By The Korea Herald
December 16, 2019

Diplomacy, Politics

Myanmar to be sincere in implementing Rohingya repatriation deal

This according to the Bangladeshi Foreign Minister. Bangladesh expects that Myanmar would be more tolerant towards Rohingyas after facing trial at the International Court of Justice, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said today. “My expectation is that Myanmar would be sincere in implementing the bilateral deal that signed with Bangladesh on repatriating Rohingyas from Bangladesh,” he told journalists at his ministry office in Dhaka. “Myanmar has invited me before a case lodged with the International Court of Justice. In response, I told that I would go there when the Rohingyas will go back to Myanmar,” the foreign minister said. “I also invited Myanmar to visit Bangladesh to talk to their Rohingya people and to understand their expectations,” Momen said. Globally it has been established that there was a massive crime committed against the Rohingyas, that was des

By Daily Star
December 16, 2019

Diplomacy, Politics

10 US senators criticise Suu Kyi for representing military’s interest

Suu Kyi is in the Hague defending Myanmar from genocide accusations. Ten US Senators have severely criticized Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi for representing the military’s interest before the International Court of Justice and defending the mass atrocities committed against the Rohingyas and other ethnic minorities. “Representing the Burmese military’s interest before The Hague and defending the mass atrocities committed against the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities would undermine what remaining credibility you have before the international community, including in the US Congress,” said a letter to Suu Kyi issued on December 9. The Senators said a defense of the Burmese military at this high-profile international forum is also an affront to the inclusive, multi-cultural and democratic Burma that she claims to champion. They said when Buddhist nationalism is on the rise in

By Daily Star
December 13, 2019

Diplomacy, Politics

India under Modi is moving systematically with a supremacist agenda, says PM Imran

Imran Khan made the comments after India passed a controversial citizenship requirement. Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Thursday that India, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has been moving systematically with a Hindu supremacist agenda. The prime minister was referencing the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill passed by India’s upper house amid protests on Wednesday. The bill will let the Indian government grant citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants who entered India from three neighbouring countries before 2015 — but not if they are Muslim. Modi’s government — re-elected in May and under pressure over a slowing economy — says Muslims from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan are excluded from the legislation because they do not face discrimination in those countries. Taking to Twitter, Prime Minister I

By Dawn
December 13, 2019

Diplomacy, Politics

China, US in constant touch to resolve trade issues

China and the United States are in constant touch to resolve pending trade and economic issues, the Ministry of Commerce said on Thursday. The comment came ahead of Sunday’s US deadline for another scheduled round of tariff increases on Chinese imports worth almost $160 billion. If a trade deal is not struck by Sunday, computer monitors and toys will be among the Chinese export items likely to be affected. Gao Feng, a ministry spokesman, said the Customs Tariff Commission of the State Council has already worked out tariff exemptions on some soybean, pork and other products shipped from the US — the latest sign of tensions easing in the protracted trade conflict. The US seems to resort to brinkmanship by using a tariff deadline to pressure China in the ongoing trade talks for a phase one, preliminary deal, said Chen Wenling, chief economist at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges

By China Daily
December 13, 2019