'Beijing misunderstands HK's separation of powers' - RTHK
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'Beijing misunderstands HK's separation of powers'

2020-09-02 HKT 09:22
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  • Johannes Chan expressed concern that the Hong Kong government was falling into line with Beijing's understanding of legal limits on state power. File photo: RTHK
    Johannes Chan expressed concern that the Hong Kong government was falling into line with Beijing's understanding of legal limits on state power. File photo: RTHK
A legal scholar has joined a row over whether Hong Kong has separation of powers between different branches of government, saying that Beijing misunderstands the concept and believes the SAR wants to ignore state authority.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Tuesday backed comments by Education Secretary Kevin Yeung, who defended a decision to remove mention of separation of powers between the executive, legislature and courts from textbooks. She said the Basic Law made no reference to the concept.

However Johannes Chan, a constitutional law scholar at the University of Hong Kong, said the SAR's mini-constitution showed a clear intention to implement the separation of powers.

He said he was concerned that the Hong Kong administration was falling in line with Beijing, which does not believe that state power should be constrained by legal authority.

"Beijing is under, I think, a sort of misunderstanding that the separation of powers means that Hong Kong enjoys powers which can ignore Beijing and so on," Chan told RTHK's Mike Weeks. "That has never been the case.

"The relationship between Hong Kong and Beijing has always been governed by Chapter Two of the Basic Law: foreign affairs, defence that is not something Hong Kong can deal with.

"That has nothing to do with separation of powers as such; when we refer to separation of powers we are actually talking about the Hong Kong legal system itself."

Chan said Beijing's belief that state authority is not constrained by the legal system is "precisely contrary to the rule of law" and expressed concern that the chief executive and the education secretary were following the same line.