Everyone in Hong Kong must always respect the Basic Law

Updated: 2015-06-15 09:32

By Eddy Li(HK Edition)

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Representatives of four university student unions burned copies of the Basic Law in public at a recent rally, urging the government to re-draft a constitutional law. This astonishing behavior shows a serious lack of knowledge of the content and drafting process of the Basic Law. If these people had a better understanding of the Basic Law, then they would understand its real significance.

The Basic Law is the "amulet" of Hong Kong people. If it is attacked, criticized or disrespected, the people of Hong Kong will suffer the most from this.

The Basic Law was promulgated in April 1990, after four years and eight months of serious study by representatives from the mainland and Hong Kong. The drafting process of the Basic Law was very sensible and fair. Opinions and advice were collected from all walks of life in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Basic Law Drafting Committee was composed of 36 members from the mainland and 23 from Hong Kong. Under the rules that were used, all the clauses, annexes and related documents were included in this legislative document only after they secured the approval of two-thirds of all committee members. In other words, if an article failed to win the support of the Hong Kong members, it would definitely be vetoed or abandoned.

Many of the clauses were proposed by Hong Kong members, including the one on the Nominating Committee for a universal suffrage election of the Chief Executive. This was incorporated into the Annex I: Method for the Selection of the Chief Executive. The proposal to adopt this mechanism was intended to achieve a balanced participation of the four major sectors in Hong Kong society and avoid potential domination by any one sector. So it is really surprising to see this mechanism now being attacked.

The most significant function of the Basic Law is to provide legal protection to Hong Kong, to help maintain its capitalist system and to preserve its lifestyle for at least 50 years under the "One Country, Two Systems" policy. This guarantees the SAR a high degree of autonomy. Therefore, it is a great insult to our city and its people even to suggest abandoning the Basic Law.

Some people might ask whether or not the Basic Law can be revised. The answer is yes. Chapter VIII of the Basic Law sets rules on interpretation and amendments, and Article 159 clearly states that, "the power of amendment of this law shall be vested in the National People's Congress." Hong Kong only has the power to propose bills for amendments to this law. When an amendment is proposed by the SAR, it should be submitted to the National People's Congress (NPC) for approval. Before that, it must obtain the consent of two-thirds of the deputies of the SAR to the NPC, two-thirds of all the members of the Legislative Council and the Chief Executive.

In principle, if any parties or individuals in Hong Kong want to propose amendments to the Basic Law, they should first consider whether a bill could be passed in all three stages. Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen once said the threshold for amending the Basic Law was even higher than starting the five-step process of electoral reforms.

We should also note that the power to propose amendment bills to the Basic Law is enjoyed not only by Hong Kong. The Standing Committee of NPC and the State Council also have this power. But if Hong Kong people propose amendments, at will, without showing due respect for the Basic Law, the other two parties are entitled to make changes too.

Ultimately, Hong Kong people will be the ones who are most affected by these changes.

Everyone in Hong Kong must always respect the Basic Law

(HK Edition 06/15/2015 page12)