NPC's law interpretation not expanding CE or national security departments powers

The decision requiring courts to obtain approval from the Chief Executive before admitting foreign lawyers to work on national security cases will not expand the powers of the executive branch or undermine the rule of law, said a political veteran.

"The law interpretation of the National People's Congress Standing Committee on the Hong Kong national security law, which provides the functions of the city's leader and the Committee for Safeguarding National Security of SAR government, is to clarify - rather than expanding or changing - their powers," said Maria Tam Wai-chu, deputy director of the Hong Kong Basic Law Committee.

She believed the Chief Executive and the Committee for Safeguarding National Security have indeed the power to issue judgments given whether a case would cause potential risk to national security, and it is a matter of general principle but not targeting a particular lawyer or a certain case.

Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu in November sought a law interpretation as to whether British barrister Tim Owen would be allowed to defend media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying's national security case, as the city's top courts approved the lawyer's participation. 

Beijing last Friday confirmed that an overseas lawyer should obtain a granting certificate issued by the Chief Executive before being hired to work on local national security cases.