Photo taken on March 5, 2022 shows a view of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China. (XING GUANGLI / XINHUA)
The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on Friday adopted an interpretation of Articles 14 and 47 of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, further clarifying the duties of the special administrative region’s Committee for Safeguarding National Security and its chief executive, as well as the legal basis for handling cases related to national security in the city.
The interpretation was given in response to a request by Hong Kong’s Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu to clarify whether overseas lawyers who are not qualified to generally practice in the SAR can engage in national security cases.
The Standing Committee’s legal interpretation mentioned that under Article 47 of the law, Hong Kong courts must obtain a certificate from the chief executive to certify whether an act involves national security or whether evidence involves State secrets when such questions arise in trials
Lee made the request after the SAR’s top court — the Court of Final Appeal — allowed media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying to hire British King’s Counsel Timothy Owen to defend him in a case concerning national security.
The Standing Committee’s legal interpretation, announced on Friday after a four-day meeting, stressed that the Committee for Safeguarding National Security has the right to make decisions on issues involving national security in Hong Kong. According to Article 14 of the law, the committee’s decisions are not amenable to judicial review, the interpretation said.
It mentioned that under Article 47 of the law, Hong Kong courts must obtain a certificate from the chief executive to certify whether an act involves national security or whether evidence involves State secrets when such questions arise in trials.
The potential national security risks brought by overseas lawyers in national security cases fall within the scope of Article 47, the interpretation said.
If the court does not acquire a certificate from the chief executive, the Committee for Safeguarding National Security will make a decision on the matter.
While answering reporters’ questions, a spokesperson of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee said the interpretation will help promptly and properly resolve major disputes arising from the implementation of the National Security Law. It will also help Hong Kong residents facing legal problems to choose lawyers properly and the SAR to exercise its independent judicial and final adjudication powers. The move will not undermine the SAR’s high degree of autonomy, the spokesperson said.
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In a statement released on Friday, Lee said that the Committee for Safeguarding National Security and the Hong Kong SAR government will make every effort to fulfill their responsibilities stated in the interpretation. Specifically, the committee will decide whether overseas lawyers not fully qualified to practice in the SAR can handle national security cases and what policies should be adopted in resolving the issue.
Oasis Hu contributed to this story.
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