Hong Kong’s Basic Law should be amended by national legislature, former diplomat says

Yu Hongjun tells forum in Beijing that ‘nothing stays unchanged forever’

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 March, 2017, 2:33pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 March, 2017, 11:28pm

A political advisor for mainland China and a former senior diplomat called on the national legislature to amend Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, saying the city had already passed a period of “transition” since the handover from Britain in 1997.

Yu Hongjun, a former deputy head of the Communist Party’s International Department, said at a forum in Beijing on Wednesday it was time to consider the mutual secondment of officials between the mainland and Hong Kong, as well as whether the city should pay taxes to the central government and Hongkongers be allowed to join the People’s Liberation Army.

“Twenty years have passed, we should keep up with the changes in circumstances and put Basic Law amendments on our agenda as soon as possible,” Yu said.

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However, former Hong Kong justice secretary Elsie Leung Oi-sie, a vice-chairwoman of the Basic Law Committee under the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, said the Basic Law “should not be amended casually”.

“Basic Law Article 159 has provision for amending the law, but this is not to say we should initiate the provision causally,” she told reporters on the sidelines of the NPC session.

The national legislature has already issued several interpretations of the Basic Law, including one last year over how Hong Kong legislators must take their oaths of office. But neither Beijing nor the Hong Kong government have suggested changing the city’s mini-constitution.

“This is pressing,” Yu said. “Of course, we need to have thorough consultations with all concerned parties, and deliberations. But we need to push this forward. Nothing stays unchanged forever on earth.” ”

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Yu noted his comments represented his personal views and said he had yet to submit a formal proposal to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the mainland’s political advisory body, and to which he is a delegate. Any changes should be made under the principles of “one country, two systems” and “Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong”. .

Ip Kwok-him, from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said the Basic Law definitely needed to be revised as “it is already 20 years old”.

“When and how to do the revision should only be decided after widely soliciting the public’s opinions and after discussions,” Ip said.

Hong Kong people should be allowed to become civil servants on the mainland, he said. However, mainlanders wanting similar jobs in the city would face a hurdle, as Hong Kong law currently allows only permanent residents to take up such roles, he said.

China watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu said Yu’s comments reflected China’s desire to exert more influence over Hong Kong.

“When similar proposals were floated in the past, the mainland government would be reluctant to address them as they would anger Hongkongers,” Lau said. “But as China has the upper hand now, it hopes to impose its way of life and political style upon Hong Kong.”

Additional reporting by Jane Cai