04/28/2005, 00.00
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Beijing changes Hong Kong's Basic Law

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/Agencies) – For the third time in three years China has changed Hong Kong's constitution. The Legislative Affairs Committee of the National People's Congress has decided to reinterpret Article 53, Paragraph 2, of Hong Kong's Basic Law which sets out the procedures to fill a vacant office of Chief Executive.

Beijing has informed Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, Tung Chee Hwa's successor as Hong Kong's Chief Executive that he will remain in power for two rather five years as set out under the law.

The decision comes in a six-page paper that was submitted to the Legislative Affairs Committee saying that the "interpretation given is completely legal" and in "the interest of Hong Kong". The 154 committee members approved it unanimously.

According to the interpretation, the new Chief Executive selected to fill the vacancy left can only serve out the remainder of the term of office of the previous Chief Executive rather than serving a full five-year term.

Hong Kong Democratic Party lawmaker Martin Lee called the ruling a mortal wound to the rule of law.

Mr Lee says it sets a dangerous precedent allowing China to alter any part of the law in any way it likes at any time.

This is the third time in six years that Beijing "interprets" Hong Kong's constitution. The former British colony is currently a Special Administrative Region under full Chinese sovereignty.

New elections are scheduled for July 2007. Currently, Hong Kong's Chief Executive is elected by an Election Committee and appointed by the central government of the People's Republic in accordance with the law.

The Democratic Party announced that it will use the next 18 months in Tsang' mandate to ensure that the post of Chief Executive be elected by universal suffrage, which the Basic Law does not exclude.

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