basic law members bid to ease co-location fear

Local | Phoenix Un 3 Jan 2018

Phoenix Un

The co-location arrangement will not set a precedent for enforcement of mainland laws in Hong Kong, Basic Law Committee member Albert Chen Hung-yee assured.

Basic Law Article 18, at the center of the co-location dispute, specifically prohibits the application of national laws in the SAR.

But speaking on a radio program yesterday, Chen said that the civil law system understands laws with its legislative intent, instead of the literal meaning of the laws as in common-law usage.

He believed co-location would set no precedent to enforce all mainland laws in Hong Kong because the range of the National People's Congress standing committee decision was limited.

"The precedent is only that when practicing co-location, it doesn't violate the Basic Law if mainland laws are applied in mainland ports, and it doesn't mean that mainland laws can be enacted in any places in Hong Kong," Chen said.

The committee decision on co-location was well thought out, not an arbitrary move, Chen said. He also believes the decision has no binding power on local courts unless the committee interprets the Basic Law.

Former Basic Law drafting committee member Tam Yiu-chung also said that similar cases would be rare in the future.

"The Basic Law doesn't mean to hinder technology from developing or stopping people's livelihoods from improving," he said.

However, he stressed that the legal basis for co-location was well established, and called on people not to speculate too much.

However, a principal lecturer in the University of Hong Kong's faculty of law, Eric Cheung Tat-ming, concluded from the development that Beijing is concealing its true intentions with the co-location move.

"The real aim is to deprive Hong Kong courts of its constitutional review authority, and implement the central government's overall jurisdiction over Hong Kong," Cheung wrote on his Facebook page.

He said past news reports had proven that the Futian station in Shenzhen used to reserve an area for co-location arrangements there but this was later cancelled, and the fact that NPCSC provided no legal basis for co-location also strengthened his conclusion.

Cheung predicted the NPCSC would confirm the local legislation of co-location as constitutional, and even if somebody challenged it through a judicial review, the NPCSC would take the initiative to interpret the Basic Law so that any law confirmed by the NPCSC must be considered to be in compliance with the Basic Law.

Bar Association chairman Paul Lam Ting-kwok hit back at Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor's remark that the legal sector rejects co-location out of elitism.

He said he saw no legal basis to allow mainland authorities to enforce mainland laws in West Kowloon, although his advice may be "unpleasant to the ear."

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