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Hong Kong Basic Law

Hong Kong should support Communist Party and not cross ‘legal line’ to oppose socialism, Qiao Xiaoyang says

Former chairman of the national legislature’s law committee launches rare appeal in the city, citing country’s fundamental system and constitution

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 April, 2018, 9:32pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 April, 2018, 3:46pm

Hongkongers are free to practise their capitalist system in the city but they should support the Communist Party and accept that it is unconstitutional to oppose China’s socialist system despite their ideological differences, a visiting mainland legal expert said on Saturday.

Qiao Xiaoyang, retired chairman of the national legislature’s law committee, said the city’s residents must recognise that Hong Kong is under China’s “unitary system”. He added that this meant the Basic Law, which Hongkongers abide by, ultimately draws its authority from the country’s constitution. 

“The Basic Law does not grant the right to oppose the nation’s fundamental system,” he told participants at a seminar held as part of his week-long tour to promote and popularise the Chinese constitution.

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Making a rare appeal to Hongkongers to back the Communist Party, Qiao also issued a stern warning that the central government would not allow Hong Kong to be used “to shake up the nation’s socialist system”. 

“There is an important legal boundary to Hong Kong’s capitalist system. The condition is that it must support the nation’s socialist system and be beneficial to it,” he said.

Why wouldn’t you support the Chinese Communist Party?
Qiao Xiaoyang

“Hongkongers seem to be scared off when they hear the phrase ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’,” he added. “If you pay attention to [President] Xi Jinping’s thought, perhaps you might realise – which part of it does not speak to the people? Which part of it is unacceptable?

“Why wouldn’t you support the Chinese Communist Party?”

Qiao stressed that even as Hong Kong practised capitalism, the city could still support the country’s wider system of socialism, just as China had always backed the city’s capitalism.

“Does the [party deserve] support from Hongkongers? Ideological differences aside, I believe the answer is yes.”

He added that while the Communist Party welcomed scrutiny, it was “unconstitutional” for those in Hong Kong to “oppose Chinese socialism publicly”.

Qiao framed his arguments along three key themes: the Chinese constitution is all-encompassing in the country; socialism is what sets China apart from other nations; and the essence of the constitution is to enshrine socialism as the fundamental system of China.

It has been rare for Beijing to publicly push for party support in Hong Kong since the city’s return to Chinese rule in 1997. Hong Kong practises a capitalist and legal system different from the mainland, under autonomy guaranteed by the Basic Law. 

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But following the 2014 Occupy movement, Beijing officials have repeatedly pressed Hong Kong to affirm “the authority of the Chinese constitution”. At the 19th Communist Party congress last October, Xi cited the concept of “Beijing’s overall jurisdiction over Hong Kong” in his report.

Last November, Li Fei, Qiao’s successor as chairman of the Hong Kong Basic Law Committee under the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, slammed some in Hong Kong for “deliberately rejecting” the Chinese constitution in a Basic Law seminar.

In March, the National People’s Congress passed amendments to the Chinese constitution, including adding to Article 1 that the party’s leadership is “the most essential feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics”.

Qiao said on Saturday the amendment was to affirm the leadership of the party. He attributed China’s economic growth to the party’s system of socialism. 

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The legal expert also broached the subject of independence, saying it was “heartbreaking” to see such calls being made in Hong Kong and praised the city’s government for being resolutely opposed to it.

“If one allows the call of independence to exist and take root, it will eventually endanger ‘one country, two systems’,” Qiao warned. “So on this subject, we just cannot behave like an open-minded gentleman.”

However, he repeatedly declined to respond when asked by reporters when and whether the city should introduce the controversial national security law.

Lee Cheuk-yan, former chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements, expressed worry Qiao’s remarks meant there was less room for any criticism of the party. 

“They stress that the constitution is above the Basic Law and the party leadership is a core part of the constitution ... But which article of the Basic Law stipulates that we have to support the leadership of the Communist Party?” Lee asked. 

Which article of the Basic Law stipulates that we have to support the leadership of the Communist Party?
Lee Cheuk-yan

Albert Ho Chun-yan, chairman of the alliance, believed Qiao’s speech did not carry a hardline stance. 

“He appealed to Hongkongers to accept the political reality in a rather soft way, not slamming opposition to the Communist Party as subversive, which is a view that mainland authorities take,” Ho said. “That shows he accepts Hong Kong has freedom of speech to criticise the party.” 

Ho, whose alliance endorses “ending one-party dictatorship” as one of its principles and holds the annual June 4 vigil commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, said he believed Hongkongers continued to criticise the regime as part of their freedom of speech. 

Meanwhile, Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai asked aloud if China was deviating from late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping’s call to protect the city from the influence of leftist or ultra-conservative thoughts.

“Are the Beijing [experts] trying to tighten the central government’s stance on Hong Kong? I think what they are doing is contrary to the nation’s principles,” Wu said.

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Starry Lee Wai-king, chairwoman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said Qiao was only offering a complete picture of the Communist Party’s leadership in the socialist system. 

She said “constructive criticism” against the party “will always be allowed” but it was not to be confused with subverting the mainland’s system.

Additional reporting by Kimmy Chung and Tony Cheung