法政匯思就 2016 年 11 月 7 日人大常委會釋法的常見問題集 (FAQs)
根據《中華人民共和國憲法》第 67(4)條及《基本法》第 158(1)條，人大常 委會擁有一般性和不受約制的權力解釋《基本法》。香港終審法院亦在劉港榕訴入境事務處處長一案的判決中確認此權力。
然而此權力應該非常謹慎地使用。香港大律師公會和香港律師會過去均一 直呼籲人大常委會需要非常克制地使用此權力，因為釋法會令人擔心法治 及司法獨立受干預。
人大常委會的權力僅限於解釋《基本法》的條文，此權力並不包括解釋香 港的法例。基本法委員會委員陳弘毅教授曾指出若人大常委會的行為超越 《基本法》所賦與它的權力，「即使人大常委會聲稱其解釋(不論是因明示 條款或必然含意)適用於香港，香港法庭可以合法地判決該解釋於香港是 沒有法律效力的」。
(1) 1999 年 6 月，人大常委會就《基本法》第 22 條(4)及第 24 條(2)及(3) 釋法，推翻香港終審法院就吳嘉玲訴入境處處長一案的判決。該次 釋法於終審法院判政府敗訴後應行政長官要求而作出。
(2) 2004 年 4 月，人大常委會就《基本法》附件一第 7 條及附件二第 3 條釋法，本質上為政改程序附加兩個步驟。該次釋法由人大常委會 主動提出。
(3) 2005 年 4 月，人大常委會就《基本法》第 53 條(2)作出第三次釋法。 該釋法是應行政長官要求作出，以處理因行政長官提早離任而需選 出繼任的新行政長官的任期。
(4) 2011 年 8 月，人大常委會應香港終審法院的要求就《基本法》第 13 條(1)及第 19 條作出解釋。該釋法於終審法院在剛果民主共和國訴 FG Hemisphere Associates LLC 一案頒令臨時判決後作出。
人大常委會最新的釋法是在 2016 年 11 月 7 日作出的，它涉及《基本法》 第 104 條的內容。
基本法第 104 條訂明：
「香港特別行政區行政長官、主要官員、行政會議成員、立法會議 員、各級法院法官和其他司法人員在就職時必須依法宣誓擁護中華 人民共和國香港特別行政區基本法，效忠中華人民共和國香港特別 行政區。」
(2) 根據《基本法》第104條規定作宣誓的人，必須以「真誠」、「莊重」 的方式宣誓維護《基本法》和效忠香港特別行政區，並且必須「準確」、「完整」、「莊重」地把字句讀出。
(3) 如宣誓人拒絕宣誓，即喪失就任相關公職的資格。宣誓人故意宣讀與 法定誓言不一致的誓言或以任何「不真誠」或「不莊重」的方式宣誓 ，即屬于拒絕宣誓和喪失就任相關公職的資格。
(4) 監誓人須按照《基本法》和人大常委會的釋法決定誓言的有效性。 監 誓人須宣布任何作出跟《基本法》及人大常委會的釋法所作出不一致 誓言的人士之誓言為無效，並不得安排該人士重新宣誓。
6. 香港有甚麼相關法律和本地法例規管依照《基本法》第 104 條所作出的宣誓？
(1) 《基本法》第 104 條中訂明「必須依法宣誓」，即是宣誓的細節及方 式應由本地法例 － 《宣誓及聲明條例》（香港法例第11章）所規管。
(2) 《宣誓及聲明條例》第21條訂明了如任何人拒絕或忽略作出誓言，則 須被取消其就任資格（該人若已就任，則必須離任）。而該條例的第 19條則規定了立法會議員須於其任期開始後盡快作出立法會誓言。
人大常委會的釋法相當於打著釋法的旗號，企圖進行解釋、修改、或重寫 《宣誓及聲明條例》。《基本法》第104條並沒有任何空間讓人大常委會去訂 明在香港作出宣誓的規定。有關的規定屬香港本地法例《宣誓及聲明條例》 所管轄。而是次的釋法的內容是在《宣誓及聲明條例》中沒有提及的，因 此是在該條例以外所新增的規定，甚至是要企圖「解釋」該條例中的條文。
根據《基本法》，原在香港實行的普通法體制予以保留，而香港法院亦被授 權解釋本地法例及澄清法例上任何含糊不清之處。當人大常委會透過是次 釋法解釋（或重新撰寫）本地法例時，它這次的釋法行為已超出了《基本 法》中所被賦予的權力。
嚴格按照法律而言，是次釋法的部分（甚至全部的）內容已超過解釋《基 本法》的範圍，因此不具法律效力及約束力。可惜，現實中並沒有可行的 機制去制衡人大常委會。正因如此，現階段亦難以預計是次釋法會如何影 響正進行的司法覆核案件或其他人就法庭判決所作出的行動。
(1) 有關的事項是可以由香港法院解釋《基本法》第 104 條和引用本地法 例（包括《宣誓及聲明條例》）解決。第 104 條特別提到宣誓必須「依 法」，這表示與宣誓有關的方法和形式應該由本地法例管轄。
(2) 人大常委會的釋法是在司法覆核申請的聆訊已經展開和等候判決期 間作出的。顯然此舉是設計來干擾法院的判決。
(3) 人大常委會的釋法是由人大常委會主動提出，而非由香港政府或香港 法院的提請下而作出的。
(4) 從效果來說，人大常委會的釋法前所未有地重寫/重新制定本地法例和 侵犯香港立法會的立法權力。
(5) 人大常委會通過釋法推翻立法會主席允許梁頌恆和游蕙禎重新宣誓 的決定，還干擾了立法會的內部事務。
10. 如果人大常委會有權力解釋《基本法》，為什麼仍然說釋法對香港的法治 和司法獨立是不好的？這次釋法跟之前幾次釋法有什麼分別？這會如何影 響投資者對香港的信心？
這次人大常委會行使釋法的權力實際上干預待決的司法程序，還有香港自 主行使的立法酌情權。人大常委會的釋法越過了解釋《基本法》第 104 條 的界線，進而提供了本屬於本地立法權限的規則細節。這顯然是藐視資本 主義制度和香港繁榮的基石 – 法治。
11. 如果人大常委會要釋法，它在法院頒下判詞之前釋法會否比法院的決定實 際上被釋法推翻更好？
人大常委會在判決尚未頒下時釋法會對法治和司法獨立造成更大的傷害。 它發出一個訊息，說明當權者只願意接受一個（對其有利的）結果，而且 法院必須屈服，即使它仍處於審議這些問題的過程。 這標誌著一個不尊重 法治的法律制度。
香港法律可以而且應該由香港法院澄清，而且應該由香港立法機關制定。 即使人大常委會的釋法「澄清」任何不明朗因素，這種澄清的代價是讓我 們的法治和香港的自主權受到侵蝕。
13. 但是人們普遍認為，基於梁頌恆和游蕙禎的愚蠢行為，他們不應該被允許成為立法會議員。 如果釋法可以叫停上述情況，那不是一件好事嗎？
我們不支持在正式的政治演講中使用不恰當的語言，我們亦同意《基本法》 清楚說明香港是中國不可分割的一部分。 然而，《基本法》亦訂明了如被 選舉權（第 26 條）及言論自由（第 27 條）這樣的基本權利。 人大常委會 的釋法削弱了這些基本權利，以及香港的司法獨立和自主權。 如果人大常 委會任意以政治目的來「解釋」《基本法》，《基本法》所保障的基本人權和 商業權利的前景將會非常黯淡。
2016 年 11 月 8 日
The Progressive Lawyers Group’s FAQs Regarding the Interpretation by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on 7 November 2016
1. What are the NPCSC’s powers of interpretation of the Basic Law?
Article 67(4) of the PRC Constitution and Article 158(1) of the Basic Law gives NPCSC has a freestanding and plenary power of interpretation of the Basic Law. This was also confirmed in the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal case of Lau Kong Yung v Director of Immigration (1999) 2 HKCFAR 300.
However, this power should be sparingly used. Both the Hong Kong Bar Association and the Law Society of Hong Kong have in the past consistently called on the NPCSC to use this power with great restraint, as this would give rise to concerns about the rule of law and judicial independence.
2. Does the NPCSC have the power to interpret local law in Hong Kong?
No. The NPCSC’s power only extends to interpreting provisions of the Basic Law itself. This power does not extend to the interpretation of local Hong Kong statutes. Professor Albert Chen, a Basic Law Committee member, had said previously that if the NPCSC acts in a way that falls outside powers given to it under Basic Law, “Hong Kong courts can legitimately claim that they have no legal force in Hong Kong (even if they purport to apply to Hong Kong by their express terms of by necessary implication)”.
3. What were the previous situations when the NPCSC’s power of interpretation had been utilised?
Historically, there have been four NPCSC interpretations:
(1) The interpretation issued by the NPCSC in June 1999 on Articles 22(4) and 24(2)(3) of the Basic Law, which effectively reversed the CFA’s judgment in Ng Ka Ling v Director of Immigration (1999) 2 HKCFAR 4. This interpretation was issued at the request of the Chief Executive (after the CFA had ruled against the Government).
(2) In April 2004, the NPCSC issued an interpretation on Article 7 of Annex I and Article III of Annex II of the Basic Law, in essence adding two extra steps to the procedure for electoral reform. This interpretation was issued on the NPCSC’s own initiative.
(3) In April 2005, the NPCSC issued a third interpretation, on Article 53(2) of the Basic Law. This was issued at the request of the Chief Executive, and dealt with the term of a new Chief Executive elected to replace an outgoing Chief Executive whose term ended prematurely.
(4) In August 2011, the NPCSC issued an interpretation on Articles 13(1) and 19 of the Basic Law, pursuant to a request of the CFA. The interpretation was issued after the CFA handed down its provisional judgment in Democratic Republic of the Congo v FG Hemisphere Associates LLC(2011) 14 HKCFAR 95.
4. Did the Court refer the matter to the NPCSC for interpretation this time?
The Interpretation was “freestanding”, i.e. it was issued by the NPCSC on its own initiative and not in response to a request by the Hong Kong government or the Hong Kong courts.
5. What is the content of the latest interpretation?
The latest interpretation by the NPCSC was issued on 7 November 2016 and it concerns Article 104 of the Basic Law. Article 104 of the Basic Law provides that:
“When assuming office, the Chief Executive, principal officials, members of the Executive Council and of the Legislative Council, judges of the courts at all levels and other members of the judiciary in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region must, in accordance with law, swear to uphold the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China and swear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.”
The NPCSC essentially stated that:
(1) A person may not take office as a relevant officer set out in Article 104 or receive remunerations for that office unless and until he/she has validly taken oath in accordance with the law.
(2) A person who takes an oath required under Article 104 of the Basic Law must swear to uphold the Basic Law and allegiance to the HKSAR with “sincerity”, “solemnity” and must utter those words “accurately”, “completely” and with “solemnity”.
(3) If a person declines to take the oath, that person is disqualified to take office. If a person deliberately utters words which are different from the statutory prescribed form of the oath, or takes the oath in a manner which is “insincere” or “not solemn”, that person is deemed to have declined to take oath and disqualified to take office as a result.
(4) The officer administering the oath shall determine the validity of the oath in accordance with the Basic Law and the NPCSC interpretation. The administering officer shall declare any oath taken by a person which is inconsistent with the Basic Law and the NPCSC interpretation invalid and may not arrange for the retaking of the oath by that person.
(5) A person who takes the oath without believing in it or acts in contravention to the oath shall bear legal consequences.
6. What are the relevant laws and local legislations governing the taking of oath under Article 104 of the Basic Law?
(1) Article 104 provides that the taking of oath “shall be in accordance with law”, which means the details and the mode of the taking of oath shall be regulated by local legislations, being the Oaths and Declarations Ordinance (Cap. 11, the “OADA”) in this case.
(2) Section 21 of the OADA provides for the disqualification of a person who declines or neglects to take the oath (or the vocation of that office if that person has already entered office). Section 19 of the Oaths Ordinance provides that a LegCo member shall take oath as soon as possible after commencement of his term of office.
7. What is the impact of the NPCSC interpretation on local legislations?
The NPCSC interpretation amounts to an attempt to interpret, amend or rewrite of the OADA in the guise of an interpretation of the Basic Law. There is nothing in article 104 that gives room for the NPCSC to prescribe rules for oath taking in Hong Kong. Such prescriptions are matters of Hong Kong domestic law under the OADA. The prescriptions in this NPCSC interpretation are not found in the OADA, and are thus additional to or otherwise an attempt to “interpret” the OADA. –
Under the Basic Law, Hong Kong has a common law system and Hong Kong courts are empowered to interpret local legislation and clarify ambiguities of such legislations should there be any. To the extent the NPCSC interprets (or reinvents) local legislation, the NPCSC interpretation is acting outside of its powers under the Basic Law.
8. What is the impact of the NPCSC interpretation on the judicial review proceedings currently pending in the High Court?
Part of the relief sought in the judicial review application is “A declaration that the President [of the Legislative Council] has no power to re-administer or allow for re-administration”. The NPCSC interpretation has effectively sought to torpedo the judicial review proceedings in the guise of interpreting the Basic Law.
We consider that strictly as a matter of law, the parts of the NPCSC interpretation which go beyond an interpretation of the Basic Law (which is virtually all of it) are of no legal effect and not binding legally. However, the reality is that there is no practical mechanism to hold the NPCSC to account. It is therefore difficult to predict how the NPCSC interpretation may affect pending Court proceedings or actions taken by other parties as a result of the Court’s ruling(s).
9. Why do we think that the NPCSC interpretation severely undermines the rule of law and the autonomy of Hong Kong?
The NPCSC interpretation causes irreparable harm to the high degree of autonomy and judicial independence that was guaranteed to Hong Kong and has been the cornerstone of its prosperity, for the following reasons:
(1) The matter is one which can be resolved by Hong Kong Courts by interpreting Article 104 of the Basic Law and by applying local legislations including the Oaths Ordinance. Article 104 specifically states that the oath ought to be taken “in accordance with law”, which signifies that the matters in connection with the mode and manner in which the oath is taken should be governed by local legislations.
(2) The NPCSC interpretation was issued at a time when the hearing of the judicial review application has already taken place and the judgment is pending. It is clearly designed to interfere with the court’s decision.
(3) The NPCSC interpretation was issued on the NPCSC’s own volition not at the invitation of the CFA or the Hong Kong government.
(4) It has the unprecedented effect of rewriting/reinventing local legislations and intrudes upon the legislative powers of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong.
(5) It effectively overruled the decision of the President of LegCo to allow the retaking of oath by Leung and Yau and interferes with the internal affairs of the Legislative Council.
10. If the NPCSC does have the power to interpret the Basic Law, then why still say this is bad for the rule of law and judicial independence in Hong Kong? What are the differences between this occasion and previous occasions? How might this affect investor confidence in Hong Kong?
The NPCSC’s exercise of power effectively interferes with pending judicial process and the autonomous exercise of Hong Kong legislative discretion. The NPCSC Interpretation has also gone beyond interpreting Article 104 of the Basic Law and has proceeded to make legislative prescriptions which are within the remit of local legislation. This is a clear flouting of the rule of law which is the cornerstone of the capitalist system and the prosperity of Hong Kong.
11. If there is to be an NPCSC interpretation, is it not better to have it before the Court rules rather than have the Court effectively “overruled” by an interpretation later on?
For the NPCSC Interpretation to take place while judgment is still pending does more harm to the rule of law and the judicial independence. It sends a signal that those in power are only willing to accept one result (i.e. one in its favour) in any legal dispute, and that the Courts must yield to that even if they are still in the process of considering the issues. This is the hallmark of a legal system that disrespects the rule of law.
12. We have had so much uncertainty over the issues surrounding oaths and declarations of allegiances. Is it not good to have this interpretation to give greater clarity on Hong Kong laws?
Hong Kong laws can and should be clarified by Hong Kong Courts, and should be made by the Hong Kong legislature. Even if the NPCSC Interpretation does “clarify” any uncertainties, the costs of such clarification is the erosion of our rule of law and the autonomy of Hong Kong.
13. But popular opinion now is that Sixtus Leung and Yau Wai Ching should not be allowed to be in LegCo given their antics. If the interpretation can put a stop to that, is that not a good thing?
We do not support the use of inappropriate language in formal political discourse, and we accept that the Basic Law makes it clear that Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China. However, the Basic Law also sets out fundamental rights such as the right to stand for election (Article 26) and freedom of expression (Article 27). The NPCSC Interpretation undermines these fundamental rights, the judicial independence and the autonomy of Hong Kong. It bodes ill for the future of fundamental human and commercial rights guaranteed by the Basic Law if the NPCSC “interprets” the Basic Law for political ends whenever it sees fit.
Progressive Lawyers Group 8 November 2016
Article was originally published in Stand News on 8 November 2016