Tam Yiu-chung:‘One country, two systems’ to outlive ‘50 years’ mantra

Article 5 of the Basic Law stipulates that Hong Kong’s “previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years”.



This assurance of “50 years no change”, which was made with the good intention of ensuring the long-term prosperity and stability in Hong Kong and is underpinned by the Basic Law, a constitutional document, has laid down a solid foundation for the grand undertaking of “one country, two systems” in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the implementation of the Basic Law. In retrospect, Hong Kong society has, in general, put too much emphasis on “50 years no change” while paying little attention to the need for “advancing with the changing times” over the past 25 years. This explains why Hong Kong was rocked repeatedly by political turmoil over recent years, with economic development taking a back seat and paying the fiddler.

Never in human history has there existed a social system, or a system of legal norms, that is set in stone. At this crucial moment, when Hong Kong is poised to open a new chapter in its socioeconomic development, Hong Kong society should build up its strength by drawing lessons learned from past experience to move forward. Shen Chunyao, chairman of the Hong Kong SAR Basic Law Committee of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, has put it better: Hong Kong not only has to faithfully adhere to the institutional framework of “one country, two systems” but also improve its implementation mechanism as time progresses.

Going by what happened over the past 25 years, there was a general lack of awareness of national security, or national consciousness, among many Hong Kong residents. This has been evidenced by a series of jaw-dropping events over the past several years, including the “Occupy Central” incident in 2014, the Mong Kok Riot in 2016, the opposition legislator-elects’ oath-taking farce in 2016, and the months-long black-clad riots/“mutual destruction” campaign that started in June 2019, as well as the incessant filibustering and political machinations inside the legislature over several years, all of which were heart-wrenching and unforgettable.

Had it not been for the central authorities’ timely moves to introduce measures like the National Security Law for Hong Kong and a revamp of the SAR’s electoral system to keep the subversives and saboteurs at bay, Hong Kong would still be languishing in lawlessness. The experience of the past 25 years gives us a painful yet valuable lesson on the importance of safeguarding national security, which is a fundamental guarantee for Hong Kong to continue enjoying “one country, two systems”. Therefore, safeguarding national security will become the new theme for Hong Kong in the new era of socioeconomic development. To ensure the faithful implementation of the National Security Law, we must not tolerate any act that endangers national security and challenges the authority of the central government and the Basic Law. The Hong Kong community should enrich the development of the “one country, two systems” practice with fresh aspiration and drive. To quote Zhang Yong, deputy director of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPCSC, “The Hong Kong SAR is required to fulfill its constitutional responsibility for safeguarding national security, with an eye on updating its philosophy, scope and process when progress calls.”

Hong Kong society should refine every aspect of the “one country, two systems” practice in the next 25 years. In terms of fulfilling its constitutional responsibilities in accordance with the country’s Constitution and the Basic Law, Hong Kong has yet to complete its own national security legislation according to Article 23 of the Basic Law, and there is still room for improvement in enforcing many other tenets that need to be observed under the “one country, two systems” framework. These include respecting the central government’s overall jurisdiction over Hong Kong, adhering to the Basic Law and the Constitution, faithfully implementing “patriots administering Hong Kong”, advancing the city’s integration into the nation’s overall development strategy and promoting patriotic education, etc.

In a remark that wrapped up his inspection trip to Hong Kong back in July 2017, President Xi Jinping stressed that “one country” is like the roots of a tree. For a tree to grow tall and luxuriant, its roots must run deep and strong. Indeed, “one country” is the prerequisite for “two systems”, which is a fact that Hong Kong residents must readily and firmly acknowledge. With the staunch backing of the central government, the practice of “one country, two systems” in the Hong Kong SAR will continue to bear fruit and outlive the “50 years no change” mantra by far, I strongly believe.

The author is a member of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.


Source:China Daily [2022-07-01]