The Chief Executive, John Lee, late on Monday said he had made a request to the National People's Congress Standing Committee for an interpretation of the national security law over whether overseas counsel, who do not have full qualifications to practise in Hong Kong, are allowed to take part in national security cases.
Speaking to reporters earlier, just hours after the Court of Final Appeal (CFA) approved the admission of King’s Counsel Tim Owen in former media mogul Jimmy Lai’s national security case, Lee said there was a need for clarifications in the security law.
The CE said the original purpose of the legislation was to prevent people from endangering national security, sovereignty, and to prohibit foreign forces from interfering in Hong Kong affairs.
He stressed foreign countries had continued, in their own ways, to meddle in the SAR's affairs, adding that there's just no arrangement in place to ensure that overseas lawyers aren't "compromised".
“There’s no effective means to ensure that a counsel from overseas will not have conflict of interest, and there’s also no means to ensure that he has not been coerced, compromised or in any way controlled by foreign governments, associations or persons,” he said.
“There are also no effective means … to ensure that during his legal practice, he will keep secrets.”
He added that the Secretary for Justice will apply for an adjournment in Lai’s case, which is due to start on Thursday.
The State Council's Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office said it resolutely supports the CE's decision to ask Beijing to interpret the security law.
Hong Kong's top court earlier on Monday refused to hear an appeal by the Department of Justice against a lower court's decision to allow Owen to represent Lai.
It was the last chance for the government to secure a court ban on the UK barrister defending the founder of the Apple Daily newspaper at the trial scheduled to begin on December 1.
In handing down its decision, a three-judge panel said the arguments presented to the CFA had not been put forward when the issue was heard in the High Court and Court of Appeal.
"The secretary for justice had fundamentally changed his case only at the stage of seeking leave to appeal to the Court of Final Appeal, had raised undefined and unsubstantiated issues said to involve national security which were not mentioned or explored in the courts below, and no appropriate basis had been made out for the grant of leave to appeal," the judges said.
Lai is accused of taking part in a conspiracy to print, publish, sell, offer for sale, distribute, display and/or reproduce seditious publications, as well as conspiring with others to collude with a foreign country or external elements to endanger national security.
Last updated: 2022-11-28 HKT 00:45