As public controversies over Basic Law provisions are likely to escalate after passage of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong express rail link co-location bill, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee’s advisory panel on Hong Kong’s Basic Law can be expected to take a more important and high-profile role in the coming days.
The body formally known as the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Basic Law Committee (BLC) consists of 12 members, half from the mainland and half from Hong Kong.
As the panel will see some term limits end this month, it is widely believed that the 79-year-old Elsie Leung Oi-sie, a former Hong Kong justice secretary who now serves as deputy director of the committee, is going to retire.
It is highly likely that Maria Tam Wai-chu, an incumbent committee member, will succeed Leung as the next deputy director of the panel
However, as to who is going to fill the vacant member seat left behind by Tam, conflicting news has been circulating within the local political circles in recent months.
At first, Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, a lawmaker who represents the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong, was widely tipped for the committee membership slot because she is considered to have deep knowledge of China’s constitution and the Basic Law.
However, things took a dramatic turn recently in relation to her odds of getting the job, as there has been intense talk that Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung, who served as justice secretary until his departure in January this year, has emerged as the leading candidate for the committee membership.
It is said that Yuen is preferred over Priscilla Leung for the post because leaders in Beijing deeply recognize his competence, legal expertise, and in particular, his rock solid take-no-prisoners approach when it comes to handling highly controversial issues such as constitutional reform, the Legislative Council oath-taking saga and the express rail co-location bill.
As to Priscilla Leung, according to sources in political circles, she was bumped down the list of candidates for the job because there is a concern that her lawmaker duties might prevent her from being able to travel to Beijing frequently for meetings
Nonetheless, while Beijing appears determined to appoint Yuen to the BLC, it remains unclear so far as to whether the former bureaucrat will accept the offer, given that he retired from public life only about six months ago.
We may perhaps get an answer on the matter sometime soon.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 31
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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