Reaffirming 'One Country, Two Systems' and guaranteeing full enactment of the Basic Law
Updated: 2017-05-29 08:12
Zhang Dejiang(right), chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress(NPCSC), greets Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai(left), a Hong Kong member of the NPCSC, during a meeting marking the 20th anniversary of the implementation of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China in Beijing on Saturday. The central government has called for greater efforts to raise public awareness of the policy of "One Country, Two Systems" and the HKSAR Basic Law to correct deliberate misinterpretations of the Basic Law. Provided to China Daily
The following is the full speech by Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, at a meeting to commemorate the 20th anniversary of implementing the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China
Twenty years ago, China resumed exercising sovereignty over Hong Kong and established the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), and the Basic Law of the HKSAR entered into force. It marked a major event in the history of the Chinese nation, one of upholding sovereignty and realizing national reunification. It ushered Hong Kong into a new era in the course of historical development in which the Hong Kong people join the people of all ethnic groups in China to share the dignity and glory of being Chinese and create a bright future for Hong Kong. Today, we are meeting here to mark the 20th anniversary of the implementation of the HKSAR Basic Law. By reviewing the success of the endeavor of "One Country, Two Systems" in Hong Kong and taking stock of the valuable practices in implementing the HKSAR Basic Law, we reaffirm our commitment to advancing the great cause of "One Country, Two Systems", and we will continue to ensure the full implementation of the HKSAR Basic Law so as to further uphold China's sovereignty, security and development interests as well as Hong Kong's long-term prosperity and stability. I wish to make the following points.
I. Formulating and implementing the HKSAR Basic Law is a historic accomplishment.
The HKSAR Basic Law is a product of ingenuity of a great era. In the late 1970s, with the convening of the Third Plenum of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, our country embarked on a path of reform and opening-up to build socialism with distinctive Chinese features. To accomplish the three important tasks of accelerating socialist modernization, realizing national reunification and upholding world peace, Deng Xiaoping, with courage and vision of a great Chinese communist and taking a historical and overarching approach, creatively put forth the concept of "One Country, Two Systems" and applied it first in resolving the question of Hong Kong. He thus opened a new way to achieving China's reunification through peaceful means. On April 4, 1990, the 7th National People's Congress (NPC), at its third session, deliberated on and adopted the Basic Law of the HKSAR in accordance with the Constitution, thus codifying the "One Country, Two Systems" policy into a law with concrete provisions and institutional arrangements. This law, which is constitutional in nature, establishes the State's fundamental policies toward Hong Kong and the system of the special administrative region in Hong Kong, and defines the legal status of HKSAR under "One Country" and the relationship of power between the central government and HKSAR. It also provides for the basic rights and obligations enjoyed by Hong Kong residents and lays out the political system of HKSAR and its systems and policies covering the economy, education, science, culture, sports, religion, labor, social service and other fields. Deng Xiaoping pointed out at the time that "the basic law is very important. It is something new, without precedent in world history", and that "the success of our 'One Country, Two Systems' formula should be guaranteed by the Basic Law of HKSAR". Despite the lack of a precedent to follow, the HKSAR Basic Law provided sound solutions to a host of complex issues, such as socialism practiced by the State with capitalism practiced in its individual region and overall jurisdiction exercised by the central government with a high degree of autonomy granted to the HKSAR. The Basic Law was thus hailed by Deng Xiaoping as a creative initiative of historic and international significance.
The HKSAR Basic Law fully embodies the shared desire of all the Chinese people including the people in Hong Kong. The drafting of the HKSAR Basic Law was an unprecedented undertaking. In April 1985, the NPC set up the Drafting Committee on the HKSAR Basic Law, which consisted of representatives and experts from both the mainland and Hong Kong, with those from Hong Kong taking up a fairly big proportion of its members. To solicit public opinions more extensively, a counseling committee on the Basic Law, composed of representatives of different sectors of the society and relevant foreign nationals, was established in Hong Kong. It is known as the "counseling organization of the largest scale and representation in the history of Hong Kong". Meanwhile, the Drafting Committee and the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) successively released the full text of the draft Basic Law to extensively solicit opinions both in Hong Kong and on the mainland. Close to 80,000 comments and proposals were received in Hong Kong alone. To reach extensive agreement, the Drafting Committee on the HKSAR Basic Law voted by secret ballot on every article, annex and relevant document to be included in the draft Basic Law, each of which could be adopted only with the endorsement of a two-thirds majority of its members. Repeated discussions were made on almost every word and punctuation mark in the text of the HKSAR Basic Law before they were finalized. As a result, the drafting took four years and eight months. Thanks to such comprehensive, detailed and in-depth democratic consultations, the interests of all parties were taken into account and broad agreement was reached. The HKSAR Basic Law thus represents the broadest common ground between all sectors, communities and groups in Hong Kong and the broadest common ground between the mainland and Hong Kong. It was not easy to reach such common ground, which should be cherished all the more by all of us.
The HKSAR Basic Law has fully met the test of practice and demonstrates great vitality. At the national level, in the past 20 years since the implementation of the HKSAR Basic Law in Hong Kong, the central government has adhered to the principles of "One Country, Two Systems", "Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy", and acted in strict accordance with the Constitution and the Basic Law. The central government has committed itself to upholding the policy of "One Country, Two Systems" and the Basic Law, actively supported development in all fields in HKSAR, and faithfully protected the lawful rights and interests of the Hong Kong people. The central government has effectively exercised overall jurisdiction over HKSAR in accordance with the Constitution and the Basic Law, which includes the following: appointing five Chief Executives and principal officials in successive HKSAR governments, accepting reports by the HKSAR on its appointment and removal of judges of the Court of Final Appeal and the Chief Judge of the High Court, assuming responsibility for foreign affairs relating to the HKSAR, exercising diplomatic power, forming the People's Liberation Army Hong Kong Garrison to fulfill duties of defense, and exercising the power of interpretation concerning the Basic Law, the power of making decision on major issues, the power that an HKSAR law should be reported for the record and that it may be returned, and the power of making decision on the implementation of national laws in the HKSAR. In recent years, in particular, the central government issued the White Paper entitled The Practice of the "One Country, TWO Systems" Policy in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. It gives a comprehensive account of the policy of "One Country, Two Systems" and remarkable success made in its application, thus clearing up confusions and misunderstanding. In light of actual conditions in Hong Kong and in strict accordance with the Basic Law, the central government made the decision regarding the election of the HKSAR Chief Executive by universal suffrage, thus gradually advancing democracy in the HKSAR. The central government supported the HKSAR administrative and judicial authorities in handling according to law illegal activities of "Occupy Central", thus maintaining law and order and stability in the Hong Kong society. The NPCSC made interpretation of Article 104 of the HKSAR Basic Law, clarifying legal prerequisites and requirements for standing for election and oath taking when assuming public office in the HKSAR, thus effectively deterring and countering people who preach the so-called "Hong Kong independence" and upholding the authority of the HKSAR Basic Law.
At the local level of Hong Kong, under the safeguards of the HKSAR Basic Law, Hong Kong's previous capitalist system, economic system and way of life have remained unchanged, and its laws have remained basically unchanged. As provided for in the Basic Law, the HKSAR exercises a high degree of autonomy and enjoys executive, legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication. Hong Kong residents enjoy extensive rights and freedoms. All this has ensured steady economic growth and continued progress in public sectors such as education, medicine and health, culture, sports and social wealth. In particular, the HKSAR political system established by the HKSAR Basic Law has functioned smoothly and the governance of the HKSAR has been consistently up to standard. Figures released by the World Bank show indicators such as political stability, government effectiveness, regulatory quality, rule of law, control of corruption, voice and accountability for Hong Kong are far higher than those before the return of Hong Kong to the motherland. In particular, the indicator of the rule of law, which attracts keen public interest, has seen Hong Kong jumping from behind the 60th place in 1996 to the 11th place in 2015 in global ranking, outperforming some major Western countries.
At the international level, under the HKSAR Basic Law, Hong Kong has retained its distinctive feature as a place where Chinese and foreign businesses and cultures mingle. Hong Kong has remained an international financial, trading and shipping hub and has been rated for many years as the freest economy and most competitive region in the world by relevant international institutions. Hong Kong is now the largest source of foreign direct investment made in the mainland and the biggest non-local financing center for mainland companies. It has increasingly become an important strategic platform for internationalizing the RMB and pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative. The number of foreign companies headquartered in Hong Kong has increased steadily. More and more foreign nationals and overseas Chinese have settled down in Hong Kong. Supported by the central government, Hong Kong has expanded its external exchanges and enhanced its international influence. The success of the "One Country, Two Systems" policy in Hong Kong is widely recognized and hailed by the international community.
In short, the great success Hong Kong has achieved since its return fully shows that the HKSAR Basic Law is a good law that suits the actual conditions of both the country and Hong Kong, serves as a fundamental guarantee for the lofty cause of "One Country, Two Systems" and has met the test of time and practice.
Il. We should earnestly learn from the practices of implementing the HKSAR Basic Law.
The "One Country, Two Systems" policy is a pioneering initiative that has no precedent in history. This means that the practice of the HKSAR Basic Law is necessarily an evolving process of exploration and improvement. Over the past two decades, both the central government and the HKSAR have gained a deeper understanding of the underlying practices of the HKSAR Basic Law and drawn on its experience in the process of responding to new developments and tackling new issues. All these practices and experience deserve to be reaffirmed and drawn upon. Here, I wish to stress the following four points:
First, we should uphold the fundamental purposes of the policy of "One Country, Two Systems". President Xi Jinping pointed out that to advance the cause of "One Country, Two Systems", we must uphold the fundamental purposes of the "One Country, Two Systems" policy, and work together to safeguard China's sovereignty, security and development interests and maintain long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and Macao. And this leads to a very important conclusion, that is, the "One Country, Two Systems" policy serves two inter-connected purposes, namely, not only maintaining long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and Macao, but also safeguarding China's sovereignty, security and development interests. The very first sentence of the preamble of the HKSAR Basic Law is: "Hong Kong has been part of the territory of China since ancient times", and its first article states that "the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is an inalienable part of the People's Republic of China". This is the premise for the full and faithful implementation of the Basic Law. It then follows that having a keen sense of national identity is crucial for the implementation of the HKSAR Basic Law. Without this fundamental premise, nothing can be achieved. In particular, it should be pointed out that China resumed exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong in the full sense of the term, including jurisdiction. The central government has overall jurisdiction over HKSAR. On this premise, the HKSAR Basic Law provides for the way in which the central government exercises jurisdiction over the HKSAR, that is, some powers are directly exercised by the central government, while others are delegated by the NPC to the HKSAR to exercise according to the Basic Law. This is what a high degree of autonomy means. To uphold the overall jurisdiction of the central government means to uphold national sovereignty, which is the source of the high degree of autonomy of the HKSAR. It should also be pointed out that under the system of "One Country, Two Systems", the power the HKSAR exercises is delegated by but not separated from the central government. Under no circumstances should anyone be allowed to challenge the power of the central government in the name of a high degree of autonomy. A keen appreciation of this crucial point holds the key to upholding the sound relationship between the central government and the HKSAR.
In recent years, some people in Hong Kong have preached the so-called inherent power and independent power, or even self-determination and "Hong Kong independence". What they advocate is to refuse to recognize China's resumption of exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong and deny the overall jurisdiction the central government has over Hong Kong. What they actually attempt to do is to turn Hong Kong into an independent or semi-independent political entity and separate it from the rest of the country. We will never allow this to happen. The HKSAR should scrupulously perform its constitutional duty of safeguarding national security through legislation prescribed in the Basic Law, resolutely stop any behaviors or activities that undermine national unity, live up to its responsibility of safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests and maintain the long-term stability of the HKSAR.
Second, we should firmly uphold the constitutional order of the HKSAR on the basis of the Constitution and the Basic Law. President Xi Jinping pointed out that to administer Hong Kong according to law is an integral part of conducting law-based governance in China and that such administration of Hong Kong should be conducted according to the Constitution and the Basic Law. China's resumption of exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong marks a fundamental change in Hong Kong's constitutional basis and legal status. The Constitution, which is China's fundamental law, and the HKSAR Basic Law, enacted according to the Constitution, form the constitutional basis of the political power structure, political operation and social governance system of the HKSAR. The Constitution has the supreme legal status and legal authority in the People's Republic of China; it is the fundamental charter for doing everything in China. The HKSAR Basic Law, at the top of the legal system of the HKSAR, is a constitutional law for implementing the policy of "One Country, Two Systems". The interpretation and application of all HKSAR laws, including common law and other laws previously in force in Hong Kong, must be based on the Basic Law and shall not contravene it. In implementing the HKSAR Basic Law, the NPCSC exercises the power of interpretation of the Basic Law which is conferred to it by the Constitution and the Basic Law. Its interpretation is final, holds the same legal authority of the Basic Law and must be observed in the same way as the Basic Law. At the same time, decisions made by the NPCSC in accordance with the HKSAR Basic Law are legally binding in Hong Kong. Up to now, the NPCSC has, in accordance with law, made five interpretations of the HKSAR Basic Law and four decisions on major issues concerning Hong Kong's long-term prosperity and stability. These interpretations and decisions have effectively settled differences, cleared up confusion and misunderstanding and gone a long way in enhancing the rule of law in Hong Kong.
Third, we should uphold the executive-led system with the Chief Executive at its core. The political system of the HKSAR set out in the HKSAR Basic Law is neither one of separation of powers nor a legislative-led or judiciary-led system; rather, it is an executive-led system with the Chief Executive at its core. This special arrangement is in line with the legal status of the HKSAR as a local administrative region under the direct jurisdiction of the central government that enjoys a high degree of autonomy. This arrangement also meets the needs of Hong Kong as an international business metropolis, and the need to ensure government efficacy and retain the effective part of its previous political system. It is therefore an institutional arrangement most conducive to the development of Hong Kong. In this system, the Chief Executive, as head of both the HKSAR and the HKSAR government, is accountable to both the central government and the HKSAR. As an important bond between the central government and the HKSAR and between "One Country" and the "Two Systems", the Chief Executive naturally plays a leading role in exercising the HKSAR's power. Meanwhile, there are checks and balances as well as coordination between the executive and legislative branches, and the judiciary exercises judicial power independently. The various power organs thus work together to ensure the normal functioning of the executive-led system in accordance with their respective mandates prescribed by the Basic Law. The future development and improvement of the HKSAR political system must also be compatible with the basic principle that it should remain an executive-led system. It should also be stressed that the HKSAR team of public officers formed in accordance with the HKSAR Basic Law must be composed of patriots who respect the Chinese nation, wholeheartedly support the motherland's resumption of exercise of its sovereignty over Hong Kong, and will not do things that undermine Hong Kong's prosperity and stability. In particular, the Chief Executive, who is at the core of the political system, must be a person who loves the country and Hong Kong, has the trust of the central government, is capable of exercising governance, and is supported by the Hong Kong people. The central government has the responsibility of supervision to ensure that HKSAR public officers specified by law support the HKSAR Basic Law and are loyal to the country and HKSAR.
Fourth, we should fully leverage the institutional strength of the high degree of autonomy mandated by the HKSAR Basic Law. The practice of "One Country, Two Systems" represents the biggest strength of Hong Kong, and the HKSAR Basic Law provides broad space for Hong Kong's development. Under the HKSAR Basic Law, HKSAR retains its previous capitalist system, is a separate customs territory, adopts its own economic and social policies, and is authorized to conduct relevant external affairs commensurate with its status. Under this framework, Hong Kong both enjoys the strong backing of "One Country" and has distinctive strength derived from the "Two Systems". This enables it to better engage in win-win cooperation with the mainland and take part in international competition, thus make all-round progress in its various endeavors. The HKSAR Basic Law is therefore a great law that promotes exchanges, cooperation and common prosperity of the mainland and Hong Kong, and enables Hong Kong to maintain long-term prosperity and stability and create a bright future. As we chart the course for the future development of Hong Kong, we should give full rein to the inclusiveness and creativity generated by the policy of "One Country, Two Systems" and fully leverage the institutional strength and enabling conditions provided by the HKSAR Basic Law. Doing so will enable Hong Kong to fully leverage its strength, meet the needs of the country, and make new achievements as it participates in the great endeavor of promoting China's progress and renewal. Some people have misunderstood the difference between the "Two Systems", and created and exaggerated tension between the "Two Systems" out of political motive. They attempt to sow discord between Hong Kong and the mainland and between the people of Hong Kong and the people of the mainland and keep us alienated. What they do runs counter to the HKSAR Basic Law, and we should expose their true nature and say no to them.
Ill. We should continue to fully implement the HKSAR Basic Law.
The "One Country, Two Systems" endeavor is an integral part of the cause to build socialism with distinctive Chinese features; it is an important aspect of the efforts to modernize China's governance system and capacity, and it is an important part of the Chinese dream of national renewal. Today, after 20 years of our fruitful efforts to implement the policy of "One Country, Two Systems" and the HKSAR Basic Law, we should, with a keen understanding of the new era we are in and the profound historical importance of this endeavor, firmly advance the great cause of "One Country, Two Systems" and strive for a more brilliant future. To meet this goal, we should do the following:
First, we should face risks and challenges head on and continue to unswervingly implement the HKSAR Basic Law. There is no precedent to follow in pursuing the cause of "One Country, Two Systems", and new developments and problems will inevitably emerge on our way forward. Hong Kong is now at a crucial stage of economic transformation. Some problems that have built up over the years have surfaced, which is a reality Hong Kong faces at the current stage of economic and social development. These problems have complicated historical and social causes and are closely associated with the inherent contradictions of the capitalist system in the context of economic globalization. The current stage presents challenges and risks but also opportunities and hopes. Confronted with various difficulties and problems, some people have developed misunderstanding of the policy of "One Country, Two Systems" and the HKSAR Basic Law, and some people, both domestic and foreign, have gone out of their way to smear the central government and the HKSAR government and discredit the policy of "One Country, Two Systems" and the Basic Law. When it comes to this major issue concerning the future of Hong Kong, we must never waver in our confidence in the policy of "One Country, Two Systems". We should view problems in Hong Kong in a proper and dynamic context. We should have full confidence in the policy of "One Country, Two Systems" as it relates to our path, theories, system and culture. We should, as stressed by President Xi Jinping, unswervingly implement the policy of "One Country, Two Systems", and make sure that it is applied in Hong Kong without being bent or distorted. This will ensure that we can advance in the right direction. We should resolve problems with deeper conviction, strong legal measures and in a pioneering and innovative spirit to maintain prosperity, stability and development of Hong Kong.
Second, we should raise public awareness of the HKSAR Basic Law to uphold its authority. The HKSAR Basic Law is the legal basis for exercising law-based governance of Hong Kong. We should raise Hong Kong people's sense of national identity and of rule of law so that they will willingly respect, observe and uphold the Basic Law. We should raise public awareness of the policy of "One Country, Two Systems" and the Basic Law across the society to set the record straight, make sure that justice prevails over evil, correct deliberate misinterpretation of the Basic Law, and resolutely oppose statements and deeds that distort, challenge or even violate the Basic Law to uphold its unshakable authority. The central government departments and the governments of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under national jurisdiction, as well as the HKSAR executive, legislative and judicial branches, should play an exemplary role in gaining a good understanding of, observing and raising public awareness of the Basic Law. A good understanding of the Basic Law should be an important criterion for appointing and evaluating HKSAR public servants and heightening public officers' awareness of national identity, overall interests and the rule of law. Special attention must be given to strengthening education of the young people in Hong Kong about the country's national conditions and of the rule of law to instill in them a strong sense of national identity, of being Chinese and the rule of law and turn them into a new generation of law-abiding, hardworking and enterprising people who love both the motherland and Hong Kong.
Third, we should improve institutional arrangements for implementing the HKSAR Basic Law to ensure its efficacy and success. The HKSAR Basic Law is a constitutional law which establishes the fundamental system and the basic policy of "One Country, Two Systems" and the basic principle of the HKSAR, and makes constitutional arrangements covering all activities and affairs in the HKSAR. It is a law of great vitality. It should play its direction-setting role in an evolving environment. A review of the implementation of the HKSAR Basic Law shows that we need to uphold both the central government's overall jurisdiction over the HKSAR and the high degree of autonomy granted by the central government to the HKSAR government. With this in mind, we should continue to cement the institutional foundation and build on it, fully leverage the strength of top-level design of the Basic Law and improve the supervision and safeguarding mechanism to ensure the implementation of the Basic Law. Those powers enjoyed by the HKSAR as provided for by law, namely, the executive, legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication, should be fully respected and protected. With regard to powers of the central government, we should improve relevant laws and regulations to ensure that powers of foreign affairs and defense are directly exercised by the central government. At the same time, detailed regulations should be formulated regarding the following powers: the power that an HKSAR law should be reported for the record and may be returned, the power to appoint the Chief Executive and senior officials, the power to interpret and amend the Basic Law, the decision making power on the evaluation of the HKSAR political system, the power of the central government to issue directives to the Chief Executive and its power to hear the work report of the Chief Executive. The aim is to put in place a functioning system and mechanism and ensure full and faithful implementation of the Basic Law.
Fourth, we should enhance study to develop a theoretical system on the HKSAR Basic Law. Theory is the beacon guiding our practice. President Xi Jinping said that "without the guidance of sound theory on the rule of law, we can never engage in sound practice of the rule of law". As the practice of "One Country, Two Systems" evolves and the Basic Law is implemented, we are encountering more new developments and problems, and theoretical guidance is more urgently needed. This requires that we focus on the key and difficult issues that have emerged in implementing the Basic Law, get to the heart and root causes of problems, deepen our understanding of what underlie these problems and work to find solutions. Our goal is to develop a theoretical system to better guide our practice, a system that is in keeping with the policy of "One Country, Two Systems", with the Constitution and the Basic Law forming its core and suits the reality of Hong Kong. Special efforts should be made to train more researchers on the Basic Law and develop a high-standard research team through increased input and logistic services and leveraging resources of various sectors. This will ensure that quality research is conducted to provide intellectual and theoretical input for advancing the cause of "One Country, Two Systems".
As a classical Chinese poem reads, "With wind swelling the sails, we will cleave through waves to cross the ocean and reach our destination." National reunification and renewal is the shared aspiration and historic mission of all Chinese, both at home and abroad, as well as the abiding pursuit of Chinese communists. Earthshaking changes have taken place in today's China. Our country is full of vigor and vitality, and it has seen significant growth in economic power, national strength and international standing. Under the strong central Party leadership with President Xi Jinping at its core, people of all ethnic groups in China are now working hard to implement the master plan of promoting economic, political, cultural, social and ecological advancement, pursue the four-pronged comprehensive strategy in a coordinated way, endeavor to finish the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and strive to accomplish the two centenary goals.
China is now closer than ever to reaching the great goal of national renewal, and we are more confident and are in a position better than ever to fulfill this dream. Let us rally closely around the central Party leadership with President Xi Jinping at its core, fully and faithfully implement and practice the policy of "One Country, Two Systems" and the HKSAR Basic Law, and steadily advance the great cause of "One Country, Two Systems". I have full confidence that with the policy of "One Country, Two Systems" and the HKSAR Basic Law serving as the safeguards and under the leadership of the HKSAR government headed by the Chief Executive, all the people in Hong Kong will, working in unison and with unwavering determination, strive to ensure prosperity and stability of Hong Kong, seize the country's unprecedented development opportunities, and join hands with people of the mainland to usher in a new era of development for both the mainland and Hong Kong. Hong Kong will surely embrace an even brighter future. The cause of "One Country, Two Systems" will definitely achieve even greater success!
Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, delivers his speech at a high-level symposium in Beijing on Saturday to commemorate the 20th anniversary of implementing the HKSAR Basic Law. Provided to China Daily
(HK Edition 05/29/2017 page1)