|LCQ6: The capitalist system and way of life in Hong Kong after 2047
Following is a question by the Hon Nathan Law and a reply by the Under Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Ronald Chan, in the Legislative Council today (December 14):
Paragraph 3 of the Sino-British Joint Declaration signed between the Chinese and British Governments in December 1984 sets out the Chinese Government's declaration on China's basic policies regarding the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR). Such basic policies include the following: the SAR will be vested with independent judicial power and power of final adjudication, the Hong Kong dollar will continue to circulate, and the SAR Government may on its own issue travel documents for entry into and exit from Hong Kong, etc. Paragraph 3(12) provides that the above-stated basic policies and the elaboration of them will be stipulated in a Basic Law by the National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China, and they will remain unchanged for 50 years. On the other hand, Article 5 of the Basic Law provides that “[t]he socialist system and policies shall not be practised in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and the previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years”, i.e. they will remain unchanged until 2047. As there are divergent views in the community on the effect of the Basic Law after 2047, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether the Government has conducted internal discussions and related studies on maintaining the previous capitalist system and way of life in the SAR after 2047; if it has, of the details and conclusions; if not, whether it will conduct such studies; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(2) whether the Government has sought to understand the situation regarding the implementation, in the SAR after 2047, of the basic policies as set out under the Sino-British Joint Declaration; if it has sought to understand, whether such policies will continue to be implemented or will be changed at that time; if not, whether the Government will commence the discussions and studies within a given timeframe; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; as there are comments that prolonged uncertainty about the implementation situation of such polices in the SAR after 2047 may give rise to various kinds of problems, whether the Government will form a task force to deal with the relevant issues; if it will, of the timetable for the formation and the composition of the task force; if not, how the Government will co-ordinate and distribute such tasks; and
(3) given that a referendum was still held, despite the absence of a referendum law, in the United Kingdom (UK) in June this year on whether UK should exit the European Union, whether the Government will, by making reference to such a practice, conduct public consultation on Hong Kong's future after 2047 using an approach similar to a referendum, in order to ensure that public views are fully reflected in the relevant discussions; if it will, of the arrangements and timetable for the consultation; if not, the reasons for that?
Our consolidated reply to the questions raised by the Hon Nathan Law is as follows:
As clearly stated in the Preamble of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (Basic Law), "[u]pholding national unity and territorial integrity, maintaining the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong, and taking account of its history and realities, the People's Republic of China has decided that upon China's resumption of the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong, a Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will be established in accordance with the provisions of Article 31 of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, and that under the principle of 'one country, two systems', the socialist system and policies will not be practised in Hong Kong".
The Basic Law is the constitutional document of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). In accordance with the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, the National People's Congress (NPC) enacts the Basic Law, prescribing the systems to be practised in the HKSAR. The Basic Law was adopted at the Third Session of the Seventh NPC and has been put into effect since July 1, 1997. According to the explanations by the Chairman of the Drafting Committee for the Basic Law, Mr Ji Pengfei, on the Basic Law (Draft) and its related documents at the Third Session of the Seventh NPC, China's basic policies regarding Hong Kong have been incorporated into, and stipulated within, the Basic Law.
Since its return to the Motherland, Hong Kong has been implementing "one country, two systems", "Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong" and a high degree of autonomy in accordance with the Basic Law. The basic policies of the Country regarding Hong Kong have been fully implemented as per the provisions of the Basic Law. In fact, the Central Government, the HKSAR Government and the international community all unanimously agreed that the Basic Law has been functioning well since it was implemented.
As regards the continuation of the Basic Law after 2047, I must point out that the HKSAR is an inalienable part of the Country. This is a fact that has no time frame. The Country's sovereignty over Hong Kong will not change 50 years after Hong Kong's return to the Motherland, nor will the Country change its basic policies towards Hong Kong after 50 years. Hence, there is no question of the expiry of the Basic Law after 2047. As for the stipulation in Article 5 of the Basic Law that "(t)he socialist system and policies shall not be practised in the HKSAR, and the previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years", its main purpose is to state clearly that the previous capitalist system and way of life in Hong Kong shall remain unchanged, rather than setting a time frame on it.
In his speech delivered at the welcome banquet attended by various sectors of the Hong Kong on May 18 this year, the Chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, Mr Zhang Dejiang, spoke on the issue of the implementation of "one country, two systems". I would like to quote from Chairman Zhang's speech as follows: "First of all, we must firmly keep faith in 'one country, two systems'. There are three fundamental reasons for doing so. Firstly, 'one country, two systems' is a basic policy of the Country. It is a strategic choice, not a contingency measure, and therefore will not change. Secondly, 'one country, two systems' was formulated based on solid public opinion. It is the largest common denominator of the Motherland and Hong Kong, and therefore should not change. Thirdly, since Hong Kong's return to the Motherland, the implementation of 'one country, two systems' has been proven to be practicable and workable. It is a good system that has passed real tests, and therefore need not be changed. In the past years, by adhering to the principle of 'one country, two systems', we have realised Hong Kong's smooth return to the Motherland, maintained the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and promoted joint development of the Mainland and Hong Kong. In the years to come, it is still necessary for us to firmly maintain 'one country, two systems' and continue to give full play to the unique role of Hong Kong. The opinion that the Central Government will 'mainlandise' Hong Kong, or even turn 'one country, two systems' into 'one country, one system', is completely groundless. People in Hong Kong would like to see the continuation of 'one country, two systems'. Implementation of 'one country, two systems' will best serve the interests of both the Country and Hong Kong. The Hong Kong community can completely rest assured that the Central Government remain firmly committed to upholding this principle".
As seen from Chairman Zhang's remarks, the Central Government is of the view that the implementation of "one country, two systems" would not, should not and need not be changed. In fact, under the staunch support of the Country, Hong Kong has been enjoying the dual advantages of "one country" and "two systems". We have not only opened up the vast Mainland market as our economic hinterland, but also consolidated and enhanced our important role in the international platform. For example, a chapter was dedicated to Hong Kong and Macao in the National 12th and 13th Five-Year Plans, acknowledging the significant functions and positioning of Hong Kong in the overall development of the Country, and consolidating and enhancing Hong Kong's status as international financial, transportation and trade centres. Under the strategic "Belt and Road" initiative, support is given by the Country for Hong Kong to leverage on its strengths as an international financial centre, a global offshore Renminbi business hub and an international asset management centre to serve as an important financing platform and overseas asset management centre for Mainland enterprises to "go global", thus empowering Hong Kong as the most open international city of China. Moreover, the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA), Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect, Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Connect, as well as the various major cross-boundary infrastructural projects also show the staunch support of the Country to Hong Kong in running a capitalist system. It is therefore unnecessary for the community to speculate about the continued implementation of "one country, two systems" after 2047.
Regarding the matter of "referendum" mentioned in the question, we need to have a clear understanding that the HKSAR is a local administrative region of the People's Republic of China. As stipulated in Article 31 of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, "[t]he State may establish special administrative regions when necessary. The systems to be instituted in special administrative regions shall be prescribed by law enacted by the NPC in the light of specific conditions". Article 62 of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China also stipulated the functions and powers exercised by the NPC, including Section 13 "[t]o decide on the establishment of special administrative regions and the systems to be instituted there". As there is no provision for a system of referendum in the Basic Law, at the constitutional level, the HKSAR will not and cannot hold any form of referendum. However, as Chairman Zhang already said, and I quote, "[o]n the basis of respect for 'one country, two systems' and the Basic Law, and for the good of Hong Kong, we are willing to listen extensively to the views and suggestions of all sectors in Hong Kong and conduct all forms of exchange". The HKSAR government will also listen to the views of the community. As long as we continue to respect and abide by the provisions of the Basic Law and have faith in the implementation of "one country, two systems", we believe that Hong Kong will certainly be able to maintain prosperity and stability, and "one country, two systems" is the best arrangement for Hong Kong.
Ends/Wednesday, December 14, 2016
Issued at HKT 14:37