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Press Briefings & Releases

Press Briefings & Releases

CE addresses Basic Law seminar

Following is the full text of the speech (translation) delivered by the Chief Executive, Mr Tung Chee Hwa, at a seminar in commemoration of the 14th anniversary of the promulgation of the Basic Law today (March 15):

Ladies and gentlemen,

This seminar is organised by the One Country Two Systems Research Institute to mark the 14th anniversary of the promulgation of the Basic Law. Commemoration activities are usually held on the 5th or 10th anniversary of certain historic events. But special circumstances may also call for similar activities at other times to highlight the relevance of an historic event to current issues. Today's seminar is one such example. It addresses the recent debate over our constitutional development under the Basic Law and the controversies over a number of issues of principle in that regard. This forum deserves the full support of the Special Administrative Region Government. We are honoured by the participation of some Mainland law experts, who have made tremendous contributions to the drafting of the Basic Law. They have come all the way here to share with us their views, adding an important dimension to this seminar. On behalf of the people and the Government of Hong Kong, I extend to them our gratitude.

Since my delivery of the Policy Address in January, there has been much enthusiastic discussion in Hong Kong about the comments the Central Government has made through various channels. I have followed it closely, and have made quite a few observations. I know that a debate within the Hong Kong community on issues of principle about our constitutional development will take place sooner or later. Why? There are two main reasons. First, "One Country, Two Systems" is an unprecedented, ingenious concept, which has been put into practice for the first time. We have had no previous experience with the Basic Law, and therefore our understanding of it and how best to implement it is limited. So discussions about constitutional development, which is of great importance to the future of Hong Kong, will inevitably revolve around relevant Basic Law provisions and related issues of principle. Second, the subject involves the principles that under the concept of "Hong Kong people running Hong Kong", patriots must form the main body that runs Hong Kong, and that under the concept, "One Country, Two Systems", it is the People's Republic of China under which "Two Systems" is implemented. For Hong Kong people who have been separated from the motherland for a long time, serious, repeated discussions are needed to deepen our awareness and understanding of these issues. This is an inevitable and necessary process.

The discussions of late are good, for two reasons. One, we are more aware of the need to pay attention to major principles and premises for Hong Kong's constitutional development. And two, it offers us an opportunity to rediscover the Basic Law in the context of constitutional development - how it gives the people tremendous rights, and corresponding responsibilities as well.

I have said on various occasions that since the Central Government first expressed serious concerns about the constitutional review relating to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, it has raised through various channels a number of issues of principle. They are the requirements in regard to our constitutional development enshrined in the Basic Law. In a nutshell, these issues are:

* "One Country, Two Systems": "One Country" is the premise on which "Two Systems" is implemented. The constitution is the highest code of law that a country claims and it protects that country's sovereignty. According to our constitution, "China" refers to the People's Republic of China. The relationship between "One Country" and "Two Systems" is clear. In Deng Xiaoping's words, without "One Country", there would not be "Two Systems".

* "Hong Kong people running Hong Kong": patriots must form the main body that runs Hong Kong. A patriot is one who respects his or her own nation, sincerely supports "One Country, Two Systems", and does not do anything that would harm our country or Hong Kong.

* "A high degree of autonomy": Hong Kong's autonomy is exercised under authorisation by the Central Government. This "authorisation" signifies that Hong Kong is a special administrative region under the direct jurisdiction of the Central Government and that its authority comes from the Central Government.

* "Executive-led": constitutional development in Hong Kong must not deviate from this principle. Why can't we deviate from the "executive-led" principle? Our historical experience has shown us that "executive-led" administration is the cornerstone of our success and is an important principle under the design of the Basic Law. The Chief Executive is accountable to the Central Government and is responsible for the implementation of the Basic Law. Only by adopting the "executive-led" principle can we effectively comply with the Basic Law.

* "Balanced participation": our political structure must have due regard to the interests of all sectors of society and offer all people equal opportunity to participate.

* "Gradual and orderly progress" and the "actual situation": constitutional development must fully reflect the actual situation in Hong Kong. We must learn from experience and explore the issues thoroughly to make gradual progress. Constitutional development must advance with steady and firm steps to ensure stability and prosperity in Hong Kong.

I consider that these principles are very important. They set out the premises, prerequisites and fundamentals of our constitutional development. Only by consolidating these principles can our political structure progress in the right direction.

Ladies and gentlemen, since our return to the motherland, the sense of national identity and national consciousness has increased among the people of Hong Kong. A recent poll by the Government shows that discussions over the past two months have had a positive influence on the community as a whole. For example, when asked if Hong Kong citizens, as Chinese, should assume some duties and responsibilities for the country, over 78% of respondents said "yes". Only 4% said "no". Another question was whether more patriotic education should be introduced in Hong Kong. Over 66% agreed, compared with 16% who disagreed. These figures assure me that rational discussions on the principles of Hong Kong's constitutional development will not only increase our understanding of the Basic Law, but also be a kind of civic education. I hope that upon the 14th anniversary of the promulgation of the Basic Law and with the reflection over constitutional development, all sectors of the community will study the Basic Law again and gain new insights and understanding through rational discussion. Then we can follow the path of "One Country, Two Systems" and vigorously observe the Basic Law in promoting Hong Kong's constitutional development, enabling greater success for the concept of "One Country, Two Systems".

Thank you.

Ends/Monday, March 15, 2004


2004 | Important notices Last revision date: 1 July 2007
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