Legal scholar Eric Cheung on Wednesday said Beijing’s decision to extend the term of the current Legislative Council for at least a year violates the Basic Law, while pro-establishment figures countered that it was a pragmatic and constitutionally-sound move that would allow Hong Kong to focus on livelihood issues.
Cheung told an RTHK programme that the decision by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) contravenes Article 69 of the Basic Law, which states that each Legco term shall last no longer than four years.
The University of Hong Kong scholar also said the decision showed that Hong Kong no longer adopts the Basic Law and common law principles, but is implementing Beijing's comprehensive jurisdiction.
He said the political problem sparked by the delay in the Legco elections has been dealt with through "the legal system with Chinese characteristics".
"The special characteristics of the mainland legal system is that you don't need to apply logic throughout everything. We can consider the political and other implications to decide whether you need to enforce the law," Cheung said.
Cheung said "there's no check and balance" against the NPCSC. "Basically, it represents the law," he said.
Cheung considered it as a "brilliant tactic" by Beijing that is causing in-fighting within the pro-democracy camp on whether or not its lawmakers should stay on in Legco.
A local delegate to the National People's Congress, Ip Kwok-him, conceded that the decision is inconsistent with the Basic Law requirement for each Legco term to last just four years.
But he said the it already brings "the least shock" to the SAR, and allows Legco to keep functioning.
Pro-establishment lawmaker Priscilla Leung, meanwhile, said the decision itself makes it constitutionally valid for lawmakers to stay on for at least an extra year.
Leung, who is also a member of the Basic Law Committee, described it as a “moderate and mild" decision.
On the same RTHK programme, Leung said, "The central government is giving the Hong Kong society a chance to calm down and handle livelihood issues. There are so many things that need to be done with the coronavirus pandemic."
Leung also said Beijing is now giving a chance to four pan-democratic lawmakers – Dennis Kwok, Alvin Yeung, Kwok Ka-ki and Kenneth Leung – who were banned from running in the now-scrapped 2020 poll – to stay on, saying "they now better behave themselves".
The four lawmakers have said they are consulting public opinion to see whether they should rejoin the legislature or not.
The NPCSC’s decision comes after Chief Executive Carrie Lam cited the coronavirus pandemic in putting off the Legco election originally scheduled for September 6, by a year.
Last updated: 2020-08-12 HKT 11:37