Pro­tect­ing au­thor­ity ofHong Kong’s Ba­sic Law

China Daily (USA) - - VIEWS -

TheNa­tional Peo­ple’s Congress Stand­ing Com­mit­tee’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Ar­ti­cle 104 of the Ba­sic La­wofHong Kong not only reaf­firms the le­gal at­tribute of the Ba­sic Law, but also makes clear that only a per­son who pledges loy­alty to the Ba­sic Law­can take oath as a mem­ber ofHong Kong’s Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil.

The in­ter­pre­ta­tion was ne­ces­si­tated be­cause two leg­is­la­tors­e­lect al­tered their oaths and made ob­scene re­marks about the na­tion dur­ing their swear­ing-in on Oct 12.

Ac­cord­ing to Ar­ti­cle 104 of the Ba­sic Law, those hold­ing pub­lic of­fices in the HKSpe­cial Ad­min­is­tra­tive Re­gion have to take oath be­fore as­sum­ing their posts. But such is­sues as the loy­alty of the oath-tak­ers to the na­tion, and the con­tent and pro­ce­dure of the oath de­pends on the in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the Ba­sic Lawby the coun­try’s top leg­is­la­ture.

The NPC Stand­ing Com­mit­tee’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion stip­u­lates that be­fore as­sum­ing of­fice, all se­nior ex­ec­u­tive branch of­fi­cials of the SAR, Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil mem­bers, and all judges and mem­bers of its ju­di­ciary should “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 SAR of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China”. This is a pre­req­ui­site for Hong Kong of­fi­cials to as­sume of­fice.

This in­ter­pre­ta­tion es­sen­tially confirms the le­gal at­tribute of the Ba­sic Lawre­gard­ing civil ser­vants’ swear­ing-in. It means, to be­come leg­is­la­tors, the leg­is­la­tors-elect in Hong Kong have to take le­gal and valid oath of of­fice. Any re­fusal to do so will dis­qual­ify them for the posts.

The NPC’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion cov­ers the key as­pects of the oath-tak­ing. For ex­am­ple, it stip­u­lates that any oath-tak­ing must con­form to the re­quired form and con­tent— ac­cu­rately, com­pletely and solemnly read­ing such words as “up­hold­ing the Ba­sic La­wof the Hong Kong SAR of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China” and “al­le­giance to theHong Kong SAR of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China”. It also stip­u­lates that any re­fusal to do so or not tak­ing the oath in a sin­cere and solemn man­ner will dis­qual­ify the per­son for a pub­lic post in Hong Kong. More im­por­tant, once a per­son is dis­qual­i­fied, he/she will not get an­other chance to take oath.

The in­ter­pre­ta­tion is not to amend or re­write the Ba­sic Law but to add a le­gal ex­pla­na­tion to it. And such an in­ter­pre­ta­tion takes im­me­di­ate ef­fect. Thus, while fully as­sum­ing the supreme le­gal au­thor­ity, the NPC’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion will help re­solve pos­si­ble ju­di­cial dis­putes over the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Ba­sic Law. The in­ter­pre­ta­tion con­sti­tutes an im­por­tant com­po­nent of the Ba­sic Law. Hong Kong’s ex­ec­u­tive de­part­ments, Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil and the ju­di­ciary must deal with cases in ac­cor­dance with the Ba­sic Law and the in­ter­pre­ta­tion . Apart from be­ing a nec­es­sary and timely move, the in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the Ba­sic Law also em­bod­ies the cen­tral au­thor­i­ties’ re­strained at­ti­tude to­ward the re­gion’s af­fairs. Given that the “One Coun­try, Two Sys­tems” prin­ci­ple is the cen­tral au­thor­i­ties’ ba­sic tool to deal with Hong Kong andMa­cao is­sues and the Tai­wan ques­tion, any un­ex­pected cases re­sult­ing from its im­ple­men­ta­tion in Hong Kong re­quires the NPC Stand­ing Com­mit­tee to give an in­ter­pre­ta­tion on its im­ple­men­ta­tion or on the clauses of the Ba­sic Law that have or could lead to a dis­pute. As such, the NPC’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion will help re­solve the problems aris­ing from the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Ba­sic Lawand en­sureHongKong’s de­vel­op­ment, and po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic sta­bil­ity. Democ­racy in­Hong Kong must be built on its sound le­gal sys­tem, and the Ba­sic La­wof­fers an im­por­tant le­gal ground for that. In this con­text, the NPC Stand­ing Com­mit­tee’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion will help main­tain the au­thor­ity of the Ba­sic Law­inHong Kong.

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