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Rule of law essential to Hong Kong: legal scholar

By ZHANG YI | | Updated: 2019-08-15 23:12

Returning to the rule of law is the only way to solve the current problem in Hong Kong, leading legislators and legal scholars on the mainland said on Thursday.

The rule of law is central to Hong Kong society, but recent violence has damaged its value hurt people around the country, said Han Dayuan, member of Hong Kong Basic Law Committee under the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, the country's top legislature.

Illegal gatherings and violence continue in Hong Kong, including the assault on two mainland residents, one of them a reporter, by protesters at Hong Kong International Airport on Tuesday.

A total of 748 people have since been arrested as a result of violent protests, Hong Kong police said on Thursday.

"The violent incident was an open challenge to the rule of law and also a serious damage to Hong Kong as a society of the rule of law," said Han, also a professor at the law school and director of the Institute for One Country Two Systems, Renmin University of China.

"Faced with such serious violence and a split society, the only way to solve current problem is for the entire society to return to the track of the rule of law," he said. "I believe this is the basic consensus of the great majority of Hong Kong people."

The High Court in Hong Kong on Wednesday issued an interim injunction order to ban unlawful obstructions of airport operations, saying those who violate the order will face legal consequences.

"We have seen from such a case that order is beginning to return to the airport and we remain confident in the rule of law in Hong Kong. Although facing severe challenges, Hong Kong has a profound tradition of the rule of law," Han said.

"The rule of law will eliminate disputes, bridge differences, regain consensus and restore order and security to Hong Kong society," he said.

Han also emphasized that the primary aim of the "one country, two systems" principle and the Basic Law is to safeguard State sovereignty, unity and territory integrity, as well as to maintain the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong.

"Any acts to challenge State sovereignty and unity is a touch on the principled bottom line of 'one country, two systems'," he said.

Current laws also give legal backing to central authorities to take action if Hong Kong government cannot get the situation under control, Han said.

Garrison Law article 14 states that Hong Kong government can request central government to let the People's Liberation Army (PLA) garrison in Hong Kong help maintain local public order.

The Constitution and the Basic Law of Hong Kong also grant the National People's Congress Standing Committee the power to announce a state of emergency in Hong Kong in which the PLA Hong Kong garrison can perform their duties accordingly, said Han.

He said however that these are "preventative institutional or legal provisions", and activating such rules needs to meet at least two conditions —social unrest has threatened national unity or security and Hong Kong government is not capable of handling it.

When asked where the Basic Law of Hong Kong should be amended given the current situation, Chen Duanhong, member of the Macao Basic Law Committee with the NPC Standing Committee, said he doesn't see any "immediate necessity".

He said a social crisis doesn't necessarily constitute a constitutional crisis, and the central government has repeatedly said that the "one country, two systems" principle will not change.

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