The SAR government fully reversed its position in a series of apparently self-contradictory statements over whether Basic Law restrictions on mainland government departments applies to Beijing’s liaison office here
Its original statement issued on Saturday said Beijing's liaison office and its staff are required to abide by the laws of Hong Kong, as set out in Article 22 of the Basic Law – which says no department of the Central People's Government may interfere in local affairs which are administered by the SAR government.
It said the liaison office was "one of three organisations set up in the HKSAR by the central government in accordance with Article 22(2) of the Basic Law."
A subsequent statement issued a few hours after the original still included a line saying the liaison office and its personnel must abide by Hong Kong law and the Basic Law, but gone was any mention of Article 22 specifically.
Then, a final statement issued after 1am on Sunday morning appeared to say the exact opposite of the original statement, saying the liaison office is “an office set up in the HKSAR by the Central People's Government, not ‘offices in the HKSAR set up by departments of the Central People's Government’ as stated in Article 22(2) of the Basic Law.”
The final statement from the Hong Kong government echoes a release by the liaison office itself on Friday, which said that along with the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, it is not subject to the restrictions stated in Article 22 that bar central government departments from interfering in local affairs.
"“They [the two offices] are not what is referred to in Article 22 of the Basic Law, or what is commonly understood to be ‘departments under the Central People’s Government (CPG)',” the liaison office had said.
It had posited that the mainland agencies were therefore fully justified in making statements about Hong Kong affairs, including the failure of Legco's House Committee to elect a chairman since last October, and expressing such concerns does not constitute "interference".
Pro-democracy legislators have accused Beijing of blatantly interfering in local affairs and damaging the "One Country, Two Systems" principle. The Hong Kong Bar Association has urged Beijing to "exercise restraint".
Last updated: 2020-04-19 HKT 11:00
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