Chow Pak-chin explains why a better understanding of the constitutional document is needed to ensure HK’s future stability
Anyone who has been reading the local news lately would have heard the city’s new Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor repeatedly enunciating that there is“no future and no room” for Hong Kong independence, a statement in line with the one by Premier Li Keqiang. On a separate occasion, Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, stressed that some basic principles of “one country, two systems” — from maintaining Hong Kong’s social and economic systems and way of life to Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy — are the best ways to deal with the actual circumstances of Hong Kong, while underlining the danger of misinterpreting localism as love for one’s hometown. In the run-up to the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, top officials in the central government and the SAR government alike seemed especially outspoken about the original intent of the Basic Law, which was adopted by the Seventh National People’s Congress on April 4, 1990, and signed by thenpresident Yang Shangkun. The reason for their tireless reiteration is simple: There remain a significant number of individuals who either have misunderstood the essence of Basic Law, or are intentionally misinterpreting the Basic Law.
Five days before the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the HKSAR, Joshua Wong Chi-fung and Tam Takchi, among members of three radical groups, carried out a frivolous stunt. They covered the Golden Bauhinia — a gift from the central government to commemorate the return of Hong Kong from Britain to China in 1997 — with black fabric. This was removed almost as soon as it was put up. By The author is president of Wisdom Hong Kong, a local think tank. the time police officers arrived on the scene, classifying the act as a “nuisance complaint”, the so-called “activists” were nowhere to be seen. The pettiness of this childish act aside, incidences like this show just how determined certain individuals in Hong Kong are to propagate, or even to perpetuate, misinterpretations of the Basic Law.
Since the return of Hong Kong to China, there should have been little doubt regarding the role and responsibilities of the central government in ensuring the continuous prosperity and development of Hong Kong. Equally there should have been little doubt about the meaning of HKSAR — that absolute autonomy was never ensured by the city’s status as a “special administrative region”, that a high level of autonomy should not be confused with absolute autonomy. For all their accusations and their vilification of for- mer chief executive Leung Chun-ying as an undemocratically elected leader kowtowing to the central government, people seem to have forgotten that “The Chief Executive of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be selected by election or through consultations held locally and be appointed by the Central People’s Government,” according to Article 45 of the Basic Law, and “The method for selecting the Chief Executive shall be specified in the light of the actual situation in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress. The ultimate aim is selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures.” In an almost “prophetic” article she penned for a local newspaper, Carrie Lam, then chief secretary for administration, made an appeal to Hong Kong people to accept the political realities stipulated in the Basic Law in order for universal suffrage for the chief executive election earlier this year to be something more than just a pipe dream: “I am genuinely concerned that if people retain their own stance, refusing to return to the legal framework of the Basic Law or accept the political reality, universal suffrage for the 2017 election will become nothing but a castle in the air. And once again, our democratic process will reach an impasse.”
Whether it is in the past, the present or future, the general appeal for a better grasp of the Basic Law is a no-brainer, really. As residents of Hong Kong, it is our duty to abide by the legal framework that governs the city — which is the Basic Law. I strongly urge those who have doubts about“one country, two systems” to have a thorough read of the Basic Law — there are more people out there intentionally misinterpreting the Basic Law than you think.
I strongly urge those who have doubts about ‘one country, two systems’ to have a thorough read of the Basic Law — there are more people out there intentionally misinterpreting the Basic Law than you think.