Bar Association overreaches itself again

Updated: 2018-03-14 06:51

(HK Edition)

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The Legislative Council on Tuesday continued deliberations over the co-location arrangement bill proposed by the special administrative region government; Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah was available to answer lawmakers' questions. Opposition lawmakers, in addition to repeating unfounded accusations as expected, also received some "technical support" from the Hong Kong Bar Association. This was in the form of a submission declaring LegCo has no authority to pass the draft bill on the co-location arrangement. It went on to claim the draft bill, if passed, will contravene Article 11 of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong SAR.

This is not the first time the trade body of barristers asserted itself on political issues like this. This time, however, it is actually challenging the authority of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, which holds the right to interpret the Basic Law. By insisting on its own interpretation of Article 11 of the Basic Law, the Bar Association has once again asserted itself over the NPCSC's constitutional authority.

Cheng, speaking on behalf of the SAR government, reiterated to LegCo members that the co-location arrangement is not in conflict with the Basic Law. That has been the government's stand all along and confirmed by the NPCSC in a decision reached in December.

There is no question the Bar Association is entitled to its own opinion but that is absolutely no grounds for it to ignore the NPCSC decision that approved the cooperation arrangement between the mainland and Hong Kong SAR. Does the Bar Association believe it knows the Basic Law better than the NPCSC? Or is it convinced the decision bears no weight on this particular matter of constitutionality? Apparently the Bar Association, like the opposition camp in general, believes it can afford not to respect the NPCSC's constitutional authority over matters concerning the Basic Law of the HKSAR. Otherwise it would not have made the above-mentioned submission after the NPCSC determined the co-location arrangement does not contravene the Basic Law and therefore approved it.

We don't know if all Bar Association members are behind the said submission in this case, but we do know some opposition lawmakers are Bar Association members and wield considerable political weight in the trade body. Actually, this is why many people suspect the submission is its way of telling the High Court to prepare for a judicial review case once LegCo passes the draft bill on the co-location arrangement. That would mean the Hong Kong section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link cannot begin operations before the Court of Final Appeal accepts the SAR government's constitutional basis for the draft bill. This would be rather unfortunate for Hong Kong people, who eagerly await the great convenience the Express Rail Link will bring.

Bar Association overreaches itself again

(HK Edition 03/14/2018 page9)