Hong Kong’s civil servants and young people need to know more about the Chinese constitution and the Basic Law, which two Beijing experts said were the foundation of the city’s well-being.
Renmin University law professor Han Dayuan, who sits on the Basic Law Committee which advises the national legislature on the city’s mini-constitution, and Wang Zhimin, director of the central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong, were speaking at a high-powered seminar on Wednesday attended by about 700 people, including the city’s top officials, politicians, educators and secondary school students.
The event in Hong Kong was organised to commemorate China’s National Constitution Day, the 37th anniversary of the promulgation of the 1982 Chinese constitution.
During a 30-minute speech, Han highlighted the Chinese constitution and national sovereignty as foundations of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), which was established when the city was handed back by the British in 1997.
Referring to Beijing’s “one country, two systems” governing principle for Hong Kong, Han said: “We must insist on one country as the prerequisite and foundation of two systems.”
Han’s remarks came a day after Li Zhanshu, chairman of the National People’s Congress (NPC), suggested Hong Kong should learn from Macau when it came to protecting national security.
Han also touched on the ongoing civil unrest that has gripped the city since June.
“Hong Kong is now facing the most serious challenge since the handover,” he said. “We must fully acknowledge the achievements we made in the past 22 years, and reflect on the problems.
“Such as how to strengthen constitutional and Basic Law education for public officers and young people, and boost young people’s sense of recognition towards the constitution and the country.”
The loyalty of the city’s civil servants, and grievances of young people, caught the attention of Chinese leaders after some government employees and thousands of students were arrested in protests since June.
“We must not doubt the great implementation of one country, two systems because of the challenges and problems we faced, we must not lose confidence in the principle,” Han said.
Before Han’s speech, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor also touched on the need to boost a sense of national identity in civil servants and young people.
“The constitution and the Basic Law form the constitutional foundation of the SAR government. We must strengthen education of these,” she said.
In a separate speech, Wang urged Hong Kong to safeguard the political order stipulated under the Chinese constitution and the Basic Law, describing such an act as the fundamental requirement and direction in implementing one country, two systems comprehensively and accurately.
“It ensures that Hong Kong people can live and do business safely and happily,” Wang said. “If this order is being destroyed by a small minority, there will be endless conflict and chaos, and the whole society will pay a heavy price.”
He criticised radicals for trampling on the rule of law, destroying social stability and challenging Beijing’s governing policy on Hong Kong over the past few months.
Before the end of the seminar, there was a 15-minute session for students and teachers to ask questions.
Article 5 of the Basic Law states that the former British colony’s “capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years” after the 1997 handover.
Asked if one country, two systems would continue after 2047, Han said: “There is no reason to suggest that there will be any change in the relationship between the central and local governments by then.”
Han was also asked to comment on remarks by Zang Tiewei, spokesman of the NPC’s Legislative Affairs Commission. Last month, Zang slammed a ruling by Hong Kong’s High Court declaring the recently imposed emergency anti-mask law unconstitutional. His further assertion – that the power to rule on a law’s constitutionality was the preserve of the committee – prompted critics to express fears that Beijing could issue an interpretation to override the court’s ruling.
Han said he would not comment on the mask law case as the city’s government had appealed. He also noted that under the Basic Law, Hong Kong courts could interpret the provisions of the mini-constitution, but the NPC’s interpretation was deemed as final and binding.