Hong Kong is currently at a crucial stage of righting wrongs and restarting socioeconomic development on the right track when it is of great importance to publicize the nation’s Constitution more than ever. The SAR government has rightly attached great importance to the celebration of the National Constitution Day this year, which is observed on Friday (Dec 4), unrolling a variety of public events to raise Hong Kong people’s understanding of country’s Constitution.
Make no mistake about it: This is not saying Constitution-awareness deserves attention only once a year. In fact, a comprehensive system of public education on the Constitution should be established, because public respect for and upholding of the Constitution is vital to the smooth and lasting implementation of “one country, two systems”.
The Constitution is the mother of all laws, whose superiority and authority are unmatched and absolute. It is also the source of power of the Basic Law of the HKSAR and provides the unshakable jurisprudential foundation and constitutional basis for the principle of “one country, two systems” and “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong”. Together the Constitution and the Basic Law ensure the constitutional order of the HKSAR. That is why one cannot overstate the importance of Constitution to Hong Kong. As water, air and sunlight are the vital factors to all life forms on Earth, the Constitution and the Basic Law together sustain the life of “one country, two systems”.
The HKSAR has been repeatedly disrupted by various hostile forces since its establishment 23 years ago; and the “black revolution” last year was the worst of them all to date and fueled the spread of separatism. The endless sociopolitical turmoil can be traced to a number of causes but none more fundamental than the lack of Constitution-awareness in Hong Kong society. Many people know about the Basic Law but not the Constitution of the country. The best way to cure pains is to find their causes; and for Hong Kong to regain the original intent of “one country, two systems”, it must start with upholding the Constitution. Hong Kong has every reason to publicize the Constitution and go all out in raising the Constitution-awareness of the whole society, or it won’t be able to uproot all the ills.
Since the new National Security Law took effect, the overwhelming deterrence it serves has decidedly stopped street violence as well as unruly behavior of the “burn-together gang” in the Legislative Council. However, there is still a long way to go before Hong Kong society can regain its patriotic passion and sense of belonging in the Chinese nation. It is comforting to know that the SAR government has started working toward this end, such as requiring civil servants to take a legally-binding oath of upholding the Basic Law and pledging allegiance to the HKSAR of the PRC.
Upholding the Basic Law of the HKSAR of the PRC and pledging allegiance to the HKSAR of the PRC naturally mean upholding the Constitution of the PRC and pledging allegiance to the country. Taking that legally-binding oath is not just a formality but a solemn act that will have one lose his/her job if he/she goes back on it. By the same token it would help demonstrate the supreme authority of the Constitution of the PRC.
A Chinese proverb maintains: It takes a decade to grow a tree and a century to educate people. The enhancement of Constitution-awareness must start early, preferably from childhood education. The HKSAR government has decided to reform the life-wide learning curriculum with an eye on providing in-depth knowledge about the country’s Constitution and the Basic Law. Such a reform may be overdue but it is better underway than waiting. In many Western countries, children begin learning about their constitution in elementary school; there is no reason why Hong Kong cannot teach younger generations about their constitution in elementary schools. That way it is easier to instill patriotism and respect for the rule of law in the minds of young children, helping them develop immunity against various “political viruses” later in life.
The National Constitution Day is an important occasion for public servants on the mainland to take an oath of upholding the Constitution for extra feel of solemnity and ceremony. It is a practice worth copying in the HKSAR.
HONG KONG NEWS