Zhou Bajun says SAR government should resolutely follow Party's directive in ending months of turmoil
The 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China approved a decision on some major issues concerning how to uphold and improve socialism with Chinese characteristics, and advance the modernization of the nation's system and capacity for governance at its 4th plenary session in Beijing last Tuesday. Hong Kong society and people concerned about the city's well-being paid particular attention to the part of the decision concerning the "one country, two systems" principle.
Soon afterward, a booklet containing the full text of the decision and official explanations was published. It includes an article titled "Upholding and perfecting the 'one country, two systems' regime", penned by Zhang Xiaoming, director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, that offers readers a comprehensive understanding of the historic document.
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In the article, Zhang points out that the part of the decision over "one country, two systems" is consistent with Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, which General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee and President Xi Jinping first illustrated at the 19th National Congress of the CPC in 2017.
It reiterates that "one country, two systems" is a great innovation born of socialism with Chinese characteristics and that Hong Kong and Macao have reassimilated into the nation's system of governance since China resumed the exercise of sovereignty over the two special administrative regions. The decision also reassures that the central government will attach equal importance to upholding the principle of "one country" and respecting the difference between "two systems" in maintaining its overall jurisdiction over the two SARs, and ensuring the latter's high degree of autonomy, as well as buttressing the supporting role of the mainland while enhancing the competitiveness of the SARs.
First, the governance of Hong Kong and Macao must abide by the nation's Constitution and their respective Basic Law
The decision offers an in-depth summary of the implementation of "one country, two systems" so far and answers some questions about upholding and improving the unprecedented "one country, two systems" principle from a systematic perspective that reflects the central authorities' forward thinking in system design and execution tailor-made for the exercise of "one country, two systems".
First, the governance of Hong Kong and Macao must abide by the nation's Constitution and their respective Basic Law. The nation's Constitution and Basic Law of the HKSAR and that of the Macao SAR constitute the constitutional foundation of the two cities, are superior to all the existing laws of the two SARs, and underpin their constitutional order. The executive, legislative and judicial branches of government of the two SARs must comply with relevant provisions in the Constitution and the Basic Law, which serve as the ultimate criteria.
The public has been particularly drawn to the requirement that the three branches of government of the two SARs must comply with relevant provisions in the Constitution and the Basic Law. In Hong Kong, for example, the public has noticed with great concern that some people tend to regard local laws as equal to the Constitution and the Basic Law. Sometimes, they challenge the Constitution and the Basic Law with local legislations, as shown in the recent approval of multiple known pro-independence nominees who advocate "liberating Hong Kong, revolution of our times" as candidates in the Sixth District Council elections. The returning officers made the controversial decisions apparently according to local legislation, with no regard to the Basic Law, or the Constitution for that matter.
Second, more efforts must be made to improve the SARs' systems and mechanisms that are relevant to implementing the Constitution and the Basic Law, such as upholding the "Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong" principle with patriots as the mainstay and improving the SAR government's capacity to exercise law-based governance. Through the power vested by the Constitution and the Basic Law, the SAR governments should make, amend or abolish laws when necessary, change existing rules when they are found inadequate or flawed and plug whatever loopholes in the existing governance system as soon as possible. The chief executives and principal officials of the SAR governments must always be patriots the central government trusts. And the governing teams led by the chief executives must keep aiming for higher standards in terms of law-based governance.
Third, the SAR governments must build a sound legal system and enforcement mechanism to safeguard national security. Zhang explains that maintaining national security is a core requirement that comes with comprehensively and faithfully implementing "one country, two systems". It is the SAR governments' constitutional responsibility. He believes that one of the main reasons why advocacy of Hong Kong independence and other separatist pursuits have been spreading in recent years is that the SAR government has not introduced national security legislation according to Article 23 of the Basic Law, or set up a mechanism to implement such a law. It has become an outstanding and urgent task for the HKSAR government and all members of Hong Kong society to build a legal system and enforcement mechanism to safeguard national security, and to strengthen the power of enforcement.
In his article, Zhang also points out that the decision demands the exercise of the rights and powers vested in the central government by the Constitution and the Basic Law of each SAR, including, but not limited to, the right and power to give orders or instructions to the chief executives of the two SARs, to monitor and supervise the way they maintain a high degree of autonomy, to declare a state of war or emergency in the SARs when necessary, and so on.
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On supervision, Zhang emphasizes the importance of improving the system for ensuring the chief executives are always accountable to the central government. It is this author's understanding that these essential details of the decision are, undoubtedly, meant as a warning to those hell-bent on opposing the central government authorities and the CPC, and those who have been waging an illegal campaign, with rejecting the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation
President Xi told Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in Shanghai on Nov 4 that with the "Extradition Bill Incident" having now lasted five months, ending the violence and chaos and restoring order remain the foremost tasks facing the HKSAR. It's hoped that the HKSAR government will follow the decision as its guidance in bringing an early end to the current violence and chaos so that Hong Kong can restore order and the right conditions to ensure the smooth and longterm successful implementation of the "one country, two systems" policy.
The author is a senior research fellow of China Everbright Holdings.
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