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Hong Kong asks China for ruling on term length issue

[JURIST] Hong Kong's Acting Chief Executive Donald Tsang [official bio; BBC profile] said Wednesday that it is "accurate and necessary" to ask China's National People's Congress [backgrounder, in English] to interpret Hong Kong's Basic Law [text] in order to settle a constitutional dispute over the term length of Hong Kong's next chief executive. After Tung Chee-hwa resigned as chief executive [JURIST report] last month, Beijing decided that the winner of July's election will only serve two years, the remainder of Tung's term. The Basic Law, Hong Kong's constitution, stipulates that the standard term of office for chief executive is five years. Tsang is expected to win the election and it is suspected that the shortened term is meant to provide Beijing the opportunity to test Tsang's loyalties. Members of Hong Kong's Democratic Party are saying that asking Beijing to reinterpret the Basic Law "will seriously damage Hong Kong's rule of law." Unsurprisingly, legal experts from mainland China take the opposite view, saying that "Interpretations by the NPC is a new part of... Hong Kong's legal system" and that the request does not constitute interference with the city's affairs. Watch recorded video (dubbed in English) of Tsang's press conference on the decision to ask for a NPC interpretation [transcript excerpt in English; Chinese statement]. Reuters has more.

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