South China Morning Post
                            Wednesday, May 17, 2000
 
                  Justice chief to stay on

                CHRIS YEUNG and SHIRLEY LAU

                Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung Oi-sie, at the centre of
                two major controversies involving the rule of law, has
                been reappointed for two more years. Her contract will
                expire at the end of June 2002, when Chief Executive
                Tung Chee-hwa's term ends.

                Speaking after an Executive Council meeting, Mr Tung
                said Miss Leung, whose present contract expires at the
                end of next month, accepted the invitation to stay on.
                He said her post was "highly sensitive and challenging"
                and that she had "performed very well" in advising on
                Basic Law-related issues and the relationship between
                the two legal systems. Miss Leung had provided
                "excellent leadership" in the Justice Department, he said.

                Miss Leung, standing at Mr Tung's side, said she was
                honoured to accept the invitation. She said that, despite
                harsh criticism of her handling of some cases in the past
                two years, she was pleased with her performance and
                would continue to maintain the rule of law.

                "What we did in the past years was the combined effort
                of a lot of people in and out of the department. On the
                whole, I am satisfied with the contribution by this
                department towards the development of the legal system
                in Hong Kong and the maintenance of the rule of law. I
                believe the public will go on with their support for the
                work of the Justice Department," she said.

                Miss Leung, 61, first aroused serious criticism over her
                handling of the circulation fraud at the Hong Kong
                Standard. Sally Aw Sian - then chairman of Sing Tao
                Holdings, which owned the newspaper - was not
                charged in the case, although she was named as a
                co-conspirator.

                Miss Leung said Ms Aw had not been charged "in the
                public interest". Critics suggested the real reason was
                that Ms Aw was well-connected and a friend of the
                Tung family. In March last year, Miss Leung survived a
                no-confidence vote in the Legislative Council after telling
                lawmakers she had considered the loss of jobs at Sing
                Tao Holdings, which might have occurred if Ms Aw had
                been charged and the company closed. Four Standard
                executives were convicted and jailed for the fraud.

                Miss Leung's commitment to the rule of law was also
                questioned over the right-of-abode controversy. The
                Government asked Beijing to intervene to - in effect -
                overturn a Court of Final Appeal ruling greatly
                increasing the number of mainlanders eligible to move to
                Hong Kong.

                Yesterday, Miss Leung said the move to seek Beijing's
                reinterpretation of the Basic Law was in line with the
                "one country, two systems" principle. "The interpretation
                of certain provisions of the Basic Law by the Standing
                Committee of the National People's Congress helps to
                assure us how the Basic Law is to be implemented and
                enables us to understand better the concept of 'one
                country, two systems'."

                Miss Leung denied that her reappointment might arouse
                dissatisfaction. "If the SAR Government was not
                pleased [with me], I wouldn't have made such a
                decision. As for the public's view, I'll leave it to the
                public to make comment."

                Miss Leung, a solicitor before being named by Mr Tung
                as the first post-handover Secretary for Justice, was
                treated for colon cancer in April 1998 and said she had
                since recovered. "I think my health is good enough to
                cope with the extension and that's why I accepted the
                Chief Executive's offer . . . I am having regular
                check-ups and my doctor says I am all right." She
                declined to say whether her staying on was due to a
                lack of successor.

                The reappointment drew flak from pro-democracy
                legislators and human rights activists. A Human Rights
                Monitor spokesman said: "The Chief Executive's
                willingness to reappoint Miss Leung shows the
                hollowness of his professed commitment to the rule of
                law. His motto appears to be 'my friends, right or
                wrong'. We have absolutely no confidence in her."

                However, Exco member Yang Ti Liang, a former chief
                justice, said: "Miss Leung has adhered to the principle of
                law and the beliefs in 'one country, two systems'. [The
                reappointment] is good for Hong Kong."

                Exco Convenor Leung Chun-ying said Miss Leung had
                made an enormous contribution to the overall interest of
                Hong Kong while in the post. "She has done a very
                good job in not to wrong [somebody with false charges]
                and not to shield [someone from the arm of law]."