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Hong Kong Basic Law

‘One country’ carries more weight than Hong Kong’s ‘two systems’, Basic Law Committee head says

Panel chairman Li Fei tells pro-Beijing magazine that city’s Basic Law is subordinate to the national constitution

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 July, 2017, 11:15pm
UPDATED : Friday, 07 July, 2017, 12:16pm

“One country” and “two systems” do not carry equal weight in the formula governing Hong Kong, according toBasic Law Committee chairman Li Fei.

The Basic Law Committee is a body under the National People’s Congress Standing Committee comprising mainland Chinese and Hong Kong representatives who give advice on interpretations of the city’s mini-constitution.

Li echoed President Xi Jinping’s speech last week at the inauguration of the new Hong Kong administration, when he said Hongkongers “must be guided by a strong sense of ‘one country’” and uphold China’s sovereignty, security and development interests.

Their comments came amid a debate in recent years over whether the two parts of the governing formula are equal, with mainland scholars arguing that national interest comes first and mainstream Hong Kong pan-democrats stressing that the city’s core values and rights and freedoms should not be compromised at the expense of national development.

Watch: Xi Jinping’s thoughts on ‘one country, two systems’

In a special edition of the pro-Beijing Bauhinia Magazine to mark the 20th anniversary of the city’s handover to China, Li elaborated in an interview on how people should understand the political model and the status of the national constitution.

“The two systems are composed of one main [system] and one subordinate one. As [late paramount leader] Deng Xiaoping pointed out ... socialism is the main system of the country, under which we are allowed to have capitalism in one or two small places. The two are not equal in weight.”

“But in Hong Kong, some people always wrongly think that the two systems are on an equal footing ... using common law to twist the understanding of the Basic Law and reject the national constitution.”

On July 1, Xi also highlighted the subordinate role of the Basic Law, describing the city’s mini-constitution as “basic legislation enacted in accordance with the [national] constitution”.

Li said Hong Kong’s legal sector should clear up its “misunderstanding” that the national legislature would hurt the city’s judicial independence if it interpreted the Basic Law.

There have been suggestions from the legal community, including the Law Society, that the mainland should set up more formal channels of consultation to gauge Hongkongers’ views before an interpretation of the Basic Law is made.

The Law Society earlier said the interpretation over the oath-taking saga, in which the NPC Standing Committee pre-empted a Hong Kong court’s judgment in a case involving two pro-independence lawmakers, was “too rushed”. The interpretation effectively disqualified the pair for their anti-China antics during the Legislative Council swearing-in ceremony.

On the call for more consultation, Li said he “welcomed submissions of views so that they can do better”, but he did not elaborate. He only said the views of Hong Kong representatives on the Basic Law Committee had been adopted in drafting the oath-taking interpretation.