Implement the Basic Law better, Xi Jinping tells Hong Kong and Macau
- Chinese president calls on the two special administrative regions to ‘improve the systems and mechanisms’ vital to upholding ‘one country, two systems’
- Speaking in Beijing on Tuesday, Xi also said China would not give up ‘an inch’ of its territory
President Xi Jinping has called for improvements in Hong Kong’s implementation of its mini-constitution, the Basic Law, as he emphasised Beijing’s firm political will and strong capability to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Speaking at a ceremony in Beijing on Tuesday to commemorate the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening up, Xi also said: “To accomplish the motherland’s complete reunification is a common aspiration of all children of the Chinese nation. … Not an inch of the motherland’s holy territory can be separated from it.”
On the sidelines of the meeting, Beijing’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs chief Zhang Xiaoming was asked if Xi’s warning was related to Hong Kong.
“It was mainly targeted at Taiwan, but Hong Kong also needs to handle the issue of ‘Hong Kong independence’ in accordance with the law,” Zhang said.
Xi’s 90-minute speech at the Great Hall of the People started with the president’s reflections, or what Beijing insisted on, during the last four decades of reforms.
One of the episodes he highlighted was the handover of Hong Kong and Macau from the British and the Portuguese respectively in the late 1990s.
“We implemented the basic principle of ‘one country, two systems’, and resumed our sovereignty over Hong Kong and Macau. These washed away a hundred years of shame for the Chinese nation,” the president said.
The “one country, two systems” framework is Beijing’s governing principle on Hong Kong and Macau. Under the principle, the two cities, as inalienable parts of China, would enjoy a high degree of autonomy.
Looking forward, the president described “one country, two systems” as a principle with “great vitality”.
“We need to implement ‘one country, two systems’ … comprehensively and accurately, and strictly follow the constitution and the Basic Law” he said.
“We also have to improve the systems and mechanisms that are related to the implementation of the Basic Law, and maintain the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and Macau.”
Xi did not elaborate on the systems and mechanisms that needed improvement, but since taking office in July last year, Lam has faced increasing pressure from Beijing to enact national security legislation – especially amid separatists’ advocacy for Hong Kong to break away from the mainland.
Under Article 23 of the Basic Law, the government is obliged to enact its own law to prohibit acts such as treason and subversion.
Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong’s sole delegate to the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, believed that Xi was talking about Article 23 and other Basic Law provisions related to Hong Kong’s relationship with Beijing.
However, National People’s Congress deputy Brave Chan Yung believes that Xi was not just eyeing on political issues. He said the Basic Law, as a guide to Hong Kong’s governance, also touched on the city’s economy, education and social services.
“Improvement basically means that authorities need to work on those areas and resolve conflicts, as people’s livelihoods is now the priority for Beijing,” Chan said.
Xi also said Beijing would support Hong Kong and Macau in their integration into the nation’s development.
At the start of the ceremony, five people from Hong Kong and Macau were commended by Beijing for their “outstanding contributions” to the country’s reform and opening up.
The group comprised former World Health Organisation chief Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun, 71; Hong Kong tycoon Tsang Hin-chi, 84; and three late luminaries: local businessmen Henry Fok Ying-tung, Wong Kwan-cheng and Macau tycoon Ma Man-kei.