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July by-election will reveal new HK chief
By Eddie Luk (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-03-16 02:27

Hong Kong: The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government is making efforts to guarantee that the new chief executive can be elected in the July 10 by-election so as to satisfy the common desires of Hong Kong citizens and fulfil its duties as prescribed in the Basic Law, said acting Chief Executive Donald Tsang yesterday.

Acting Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang puts aside his briefcase during a meeting with lawmakers at the Legislative Council March 15, 2005. [Reuters]
By doing so, Tsang said, it would eliminate political uncertainty and consolidate social stability and economic development.

Attending a special meeting of the Legislative Council (LegCo)'s House Committee, Tsang also cautioned that if some politicians advocated a full five-year term for the next chief executive and mounted legal challenges against the SAR government decision which says the term of the next chief executive will be two years, it would deal a blow to the progress of SAR constitutional development.

Some politicians have claimed the government position breaches the Basic Law and would not rule out filing a judicial review to the court, Tsang noted. "We will try our best to overcome any challenges and difficulties. Anyone who attempts to mount the legal challenge should think about the public aspirations," said Tsang, who appeared in LegCo for the first time after taking up the SAR's first-in-command post.

Tsang said the present law states that a new chief executive must be elected within 120 days after the office becoming vacant.

Should the legal challenge do take place, Tsang said he is highly confident that local courts would rule in favour of the government's decision.

Also, Tsang yesterday admitted the government's original understanding of the Basic Law regarding the chief executive's term of tenure had been incorrect.

Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung changed her original position that the term of tenure should be two year, not a full five years, a move later backed by the National People's Congress (NPC) Legislative Affairs Commission.

When the government introduced the Chief Executive Election Bill in 2001, the government held the view that if a new chief executive was elected to fill a vacancy, his term of office should run afresh for five years. After seeking opinions from mainland legal experts, Leung said the legislative intent of the relevant provisions was that the chief executive should just serve the remaining years.

In response to lawmakers' criticism that the government made a U-turn in the interpretation of the Basic Law for political expediency, Tsang said in some circumstances the interpretation of the Basic Law regarding constitutional affairs may vary in Hong Kong, which has adopted the common law system.

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