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One country and two systems both need to be better understood

The rights and freedoms people in Hong Kong enjoy come from the Basic Law created by the national constitution, and the relationship between the two deserves respect

The rights and freedoms people in Hong Kong enjoy come from the Basic Law created by the national constitution, and the relationship between the two deserves respect

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 April, 2018, 5:27am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 April, 2018, 5:27am

It has been well recognised that the Basic Law is the basis of our rights, freedoms and privileges. As the catchphrase in a TV promotion succinctly summed it up – “all these flow from the Basic Law”.

The promotion, however, did not go further to broach a broader question. If all we enjoy comes from the Basic Law, where did the Basic Law come from?

The answer is the country’s constitution. Under Article 31, special administrative regions may be set up, the systems of which shall be prescribed by law enacted by the state legislature. In the case of Hong Kong and Macau, capitalism is practised instead of socialism; and hence the concept of “one country, two systems”. This was well explained by a visiting former mainland official on the weekend.

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In the most comprehensive analysis yet of the relationship between the constitution and the Basic Law, Qiao Xiaoyang, retired chairman of the national legislature’s Basic Law committee, said it was a constitutional duty for the city to support communist rule and socialism as practised on the mainland.

Although he steered clear of the issue of Basic Law Article 23, under which the city has to enact legislation against subversion and other national security offences, he was unequivocal on the need to suppress independence. He urged the people to support communist rule and the mainland system.

Qiao’s remarks came as Beijing has put more emphasis on “one country” in recent years. It is also a timely reminder of the constitutional amendments passed by the national legislature last month, which incorporated President Xi Jinping’s ruling philosophy and the communist leadership as a fundamental part of Chinese socialism.

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Understandably, some people see the constitution and the Basic Law differently. But Qiao has laid down a good basis for discussing an issue to which we have not given the attention it deserves.

There has been much academic debate about the precise relationship between the Basic Law and the national constitution dating back to the drafting of the former.

Whatever one’s views, the Basic Law does not give us the right to challenge the mainland system. Without the national constitution, there would not be the Basic Law and the establishment of special administrative regions; nor could we preserve our way of life under a different system.

While we respect the mainland’s socialist system, our separate system should also be respected. It includes not just capitalism, but the rule of law as well as freedoms and rights. It is in our interest not just to know more about the Basic Law, but also its relationship with the constitution.

This will help us better appreciate the differences in the two systems in the national context. Just as the national constitution gives the basis for one country, the Basic Law provides for two systems. Both should be better understood and respected.