Today is the Constitution Day. Back in 2014, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) decided to designate December 4 as the “Constitution Day”. Our nation launches promotion and education of the Constitution through multiple channels, in order to enhance public awareness of the Constitution, promote its spirit, strengthen its implementation and advance the overall law-based governance of the country.
Let me briefly introduce the development of the Constitution. On September 29, 1949, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) adopted the Common Program of the CPPCC which bore the nature of a temporary constitution and laid a strong legal foundation for the political system of our country. On September 20, 1954, the Constitution of the Peoples Republic of China was adopted at the First Session of the First NPC Congress. Since then, there were the 1975 Constitution, the 1978 Constitution and the 1982 Constitution as well as several amendments to the main text of the Constitution.
President Xi Jinping had once said that the Constitution is the fundamental law of the state and the overall basis of all other systems and laws of the country. The People’s Congress System is the fundamental political system in China and the NPC is the highest organ of state power. Under the Constitution, the NPC has the power to introduce laws and other legal instruments including making decisions.
It is worthy to note that the 1993 Amendments to the Constitution added “[t]he system of multiparty cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the Communist Party of China will continue and develop long into the future” to the Preamble. In the 2018 Amendments, “(patriots who) dedicated to the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” and “promotes the building of a human community with a shared future” were added to the Preamble, setting out the direction of development of our country. “Leadership by the Communist Party of China is the defining feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics” was also added to Article 1, which clearly demonstrates the fundamental system of our nation.
To fully implement the principle of “one country, two systems”, we must enhance the education on the Constitution and the Basic Law so that members of the community will be able to grasp the essence of “one country, two systems”, helping Hong Kong play its unique role in national strategies to build a better future
Article 31 was written into the Constitution in 1982, stating that “[T]he state may establish special administrative regions when necessary. The systems instituted in special administrative regions shall, in light of specific circumstances, be prescribed by laws enacted by the National People's Congress”, which formed the legal basis for the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). Article 62 (2), (14) and (16) of the Constitution stipulate that the NPC shall exercise the following functions and powers: “overseeing the enforcement of the Constitution”; “deciding on the establishment of special administrative regions and the systems to be instituted there”; and “other functions and powers that the highest state organ of power should exercise”.
The NPC adopted the Basic Law in accordance with Article 31 of the Constitution and the Decision on the Establishment of the HKSAR on April 4, 1990.
When a gaping hole in national security has emerged in Hong Kong with increasingly serious situation, and it is difficult for the executive and legislative authorities of the HKSAR to complete on their own legislation for safeguarding national security in the foreseeable future, the NPC has the right and duty under the Constitution and the Basic Law to introduce a national security law to improve at the national level the legal framework and enforcement mechanisms for national security for the HKSAR.
In formulating the concept of “one country, two systems”, Mr Deng Xiaoping said that patriots must be the mainstay of the idea of “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong”. To better implement the criterion of “patriots administering Hong Kong”, effectively safeguard the constitutional order as set out in the Constitution and the Basic Law, the NPC proposed an approach combining “decision plus amendment” to improve HKSAR’s electoral system, ensuring the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong as well as the steadfast and successful implementation of “one country, two systems”.
The enactment of the National Security Law and the Decision on improving the electoral system have fully reflected the fundamental system and task of the state as stipulated in the Constitution. Everyone in the country must treat the Constitution as the fundamental standard of conduct, and have a duty to uphold the sanctity of the Constitution and ensure its compliance.
To fully implement the principle of “one country, two systems”, we must enhance the education on the Constitution and the Basic Law so that members of the community will be able to grasp the essence of “one country, two systems”, helping Hong Kong play its unique role in national strategies to build a better future. The Constitution is the foundation of the Basic Law and the principle of “one country, two systems”. We all need to grasp a proper understanding of the Constitution. A traditional Chinese idiom says that only when a root is firm, the branches flourish.
The writer is Hong Kong's Secretary for Justice. The article appeared on her official blog page on Dec 4, 2021.
HONG KONG NEWS