Hong Kong's Catholic leader Bishop Joseph Zen (
Zen described the move as "disrespectful" of Hong Kong's mini-constitution, the Basic Law, and would have a "serious impact" on the rule of law in the former British colony.
Zen, leader of Hong Kong's 250,000 Catholics who include acting Chief Executive Donald Tsang (曾蔭權), attacked the government in a radio interview yesterday.
His remarks came two days after Tsang announced the government is to ask Beijing to interpret the Basic Law to decide if the next Hong Kong leader should serve two or five years.
The decision has sparked widespread criticism and protestors yesterday burnt a draft of the Basic Law outside government offices in a demonstration against the move.
One of the protestors, legislator Emily Lau (
"People find this very, very disturbing," she said.
The National People's Congress in Beijing is expected to rule at the end of this month that the new Chief Executive can only serve out the last two years of Tung's term after he resigned in March.
China is understood to want its favored successor Tsang to serve only a "trial" two year term before a fresh election is held for a five-year term in 2007.
Pro-democracy activists have already begun lodging judicial review cases to seek a verdict from the Hong Kong High Court on whether a two-year term would be constitutional.
A ruling by the National People's Congress would, however, effectively overrule any decision by Hong Kong's High Court and allow the July election to proceed.
Tung Chee-hwa's successor will be chosen by an 800-member largely pro-Beijing election committee. Donald Tsang is expected to be the only serious candidate.
Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Stephen Lam (
He said there was an "urgent need" for China to intervene to avert a constitutional crisis in the former British colony if the legal challenges stalled the succession.
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