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10 years into Basic Law,time to build awareness
By Jiang Rongjun (China Daily)

With 10 years of experience in implementing the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), it's time to take a look at just what the law means not only for Hong Kong but for the mainland.

The Basic Law is the legal expression of the idea of "one country, two systems" and the central government's policies toward the HKSAR.

The experience over the past decade since Hong Kong's return to the mainland provides us with food for thought.

First, at the core of the Basic Law lies the principle of "one country, two systems". Its implementation is actually a process of carrying out the principle of "one country, two systems".

Safeguarding the national sovereignty constitutes the prerequisite for implementing the principle of "one country, two systems"; that the high-degree of autonomy - Hong Kong people running Hong Kong - is key to carrying out the Basic Law and that maintaining Hong Kong's long-term stability and prosperity is the ultimate goal of the Basic Law.

Second, the Basic Law is the legal cornerstone for governing Hong Kong under the rule of law.

The Basic Law decrees that the HKSAR is an integral part of the People's Republic of China. For that matter, the high degree of autonomy enjoyed by Hong Kong stems from the authorization of the National People's Congress.

The Basic Law makes clear the relationship between Hong Kong and the central government and defines the special administrative region's legal status and political system.

The post of the chief executive of Hong Kong is one of the most prominent features of the special administrative region's political system.

The chief executive is accountable both to the special administrative region and the central government. The executive plays the leading role in relations with the legislative and judicial branches of the SAR government.

Third, the Basic Law constitutes the legal guarantee for Hong Kong's long-standing stability and prosperity.

Since Hong Kong's return, the special administrative region has emerged safe and sound from a series of difficulties inflicted by the Asian financial crisis, SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and bird flu.

Hong Kong's economy keeps growing, the society remains stable and people's livelihood keeps improving. Hong Kong retains its status as a free port, an international metropolis, the shipping and financial center of the world.

All this is a manifestation of the powerful working of the principle of "one country, two systems".

We should, however, see that our understanding of the Basic Law needs to be deepened; that problems exist in implementing the Basic Law and that people in Hong Kong have different interpretations of the Basic Law.

A deeper understanding of the Basic Law will enhance our capability of carrying out the law.

Some people believe that the Basic Law of the HKSAR is merely a local law governing Hong Kong and its people. They forget that this law was formulated by the National People's Congress, the country's supreme legislature, based on the Constitution.

So the Basic Law is a national law and, therefore, applicable nationwide, not only in Hong Kong.

As a result, the central government and local governments at various levels on the Chinese mainland, as well as the HKSAR government, are obligated to abide by the Basic Law.

The Basic Law is legally binding not only for the 7 million Hong Kong residents but also for the 1.3 billion people on the mainland. This is especially so in the context of the growing connections between Hong Kong and the mainland as the two economies are being integrated at an accelerated pace.

To better understand the Basic Law and enforce it more effectively, we need to do a number of things.

First, people's awareness of the Basic Law should be heightened. In the past, we did not do enough to disseminate the principles of the Basic Law among the public. We should reinforce the publicity campaign aimed at making the Basic Law widely known both in Hong Kong and on the mainland. Civil servants and the younger generation should be particularly targeted.

Second, we should act strictly according to the principles of the Basic Law.

The rule of law in Hong Kong means first of all the rule of the Basic Law. All Hong Kong civil servants from the chief executive on down the legislature and the judicial institutions are bound to act according to the Basic Law.

At the same time, the central government and all the local governments on the mainland must also act under the principles of the Basic Law. They must support the HKSAR in carrying out the principles of "one country, two systems" and Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong.

Third, we need to sum up the experience of implementing the basic law over the past 10 years and enhance our capability to carry out this law.

New issues keep cropping up in the course of implementing the Basic Law. We must study the new issues and situations, resolve emerging problems and sum up experience in this never-ending process.

The author is a researcher with the Shanghai-based Institute for East Asian Studies. The article was originally published in China Business News

(China Daily 07/03/2007 page10)

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