On February 22, the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies hosted a thematic symposium on improving the system and institutions of “One Country, Two Systems” and implementing the fundamental principle of “patriots administering Hong Kong.” Here is the speech delivered at the symposium by Xia Baolong, Vice Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, and Director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council.
Distinguished guests and friends:
It is a great pleasure to attend this symposium hosted by the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies. First of all, I’d like to extend congratulations to the opening of this symposium on behalf of the office of the Central Leading Group on Hong Kong and Macao Affairs, and the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council.
On January 27, when hearing the 2020 work report of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, President Xi Jinping noted that Hong Kong’s major shift from chaos to stability once again testifies to the unfailing truth that to ensure the sound and sustained implementation of “One Country, Two Systems”, it is imperative to always uphold the principle of “patriots administering Hong Kong”. This important exposition of President Xi Jinping summed up the experiences since Hong Kong’s return to the motherland and revealed the law in the practice of “One Country, Two Systems” . It also laid out the direction for the sound and sustained implementation of “One Country, Two Systems”, and for the lasting stability of Hong Kong. I am pleased to see that President Xi’s important exposition has elicited warm responses and found an echo in Hong Kong society.
This symposium is centered on the theme: To improve the system and institutions of “One Country, Two Systems”, and implement the fundamental principle of “patriots administering Hong Kong”. It will definitely help facilitate rational thinking and consensus building among the people of Hong Kong and Macao. I’d also like to take this opportunity to share with you my views in the following four areas:
I. “Patriots administering Hong Kong” is the very essence of the “One Country, Two Systems” policy.
What is the principle of “patriots administering Hong Kong”? Simply put, the principle aims to ensure that Hong Kong, after its return to the motherland, must be administered by patriots, and that the power of administering the HKSAR must be kept in the hands of patriots. For those with basic knowledge of the history of Hong Kong’s return, the principle is neither a novel idea nor a new interpretation, but represents the original aspiration of the “One Country, Two Systems” policy put forward by the Communist Party of China.
First of all, the principle of “patriots administering Hong Kong” is integral to the “One Country, Two Systems” policy. It is well documented that in the early 1980s, when Chinese leaders laid down fundamental principles such as the “One Country, Two Systems” policy under which Hong Kong people administer Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy, they already had a holistic roadmap at the ready. Comrade Deng Xiaoping had expressly pointed out that the future government of the HKSAR should be formed with patriots as the main body, and that talents be nurtured promptly to take part in the administration of Hong Kong during the transitional period.
In June 1984, when meeting with a Hong Kong delegation comprising industrial and business leaders as well as public figures, Comrade Deng Xiaoping expounded the “One Country, Two Systems” policy, with the focus being placed on the issue of “patriots administering Hong Kong”. He said that “we should have faith in Chinese compatriots in Hong Kong to have the capacity for good governance. It is colonial mentality to have no confidence in Chinese having the ability to administer Hong Kong”. “All Chinese people, regardless of their costumes and positions, should at least be proud of the Chinese nation.”
The people of Hong Kong also have national pride. “Some requirements or qualifications must be established with regard to the administration of Hong Kong affairs by the people of Hong Kong. It must be required that patriots form the main body of administrators, that is, of the future government of the HKSAR. Of course it should include other Chinese, too, as well as foreigners invited to serve as advisers.” The above remarks were included in Volume III of the Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping under the headline “One Country, Two Systems”. It is thus obvious that the idea of “patriots administering Hong Kong” became an integral part of the “One Country, Two System” policy when it was being conceptualized. And it would be fair to say that “patriots administering Hong Kong” is the very essence of the “One Country, Two Systems” policy. To effectuate the administration of Hong Kong affairs by the people of Hong Kong, the principle of “patriots administering Hong Kong” must be upheld. The full and faithful implementation of the “One Country, Two Systems” policy is possible only when Hong Kong is administered by patriots.
Secondly, “patriots administering Hong Kong” is an inevitable requirement of the historical change that is Hong Kong’s return to the motherland. During the over 150 years of British colonial rule, the power to administer Hong Kong was in the hands of the British and the Chinese were excluded until right before Hong Kong’s return. Some patriots had been subjected to oppression and unfair treatment under the colonial government. China’s resumption of the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong ushered in a new era where Hong Kong compatriots became masters of their own affairs, and the power to administer Hong Kong returned to the Chinese people. But not everyone has conscientiously adapted to the historic return of Hong Kong to the motherland.
At the time of the Sino-British negotiations on the future of Hong Kong, some preposterous propositions were made to retain colonial rule, such as an extension of lease, placing Hong Kong under British or UN trusteeship, or for the British to return sovereignty in exchange for the power to administer Hong Kong. Against such background, Comrade Deng Xiaoping stressed that “we should have faith in Chinese compatriots in Hong Kong to have the capacity for good governance,” and “Hong Kong must be administered by the people of Hong Kong with patriots as the main body.” The power to administer and sovereignty are inseparable. Just think of it, what is there to embody China’s resumption of the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong if the power to administer Hong Kong is kept in the hands of the people other than the Chinese who love the country and love Hong Kong, or even in the hands of political agents of other countries?
Thirdly, “patriots administering Hong Kong” is a fundamental principle that must be upheld to fully and faithfully implement the “One Country, Two Systems.” Since Hong Kong’s return to the motherland, the practice of “One country, Two Systems” has achieved a universally recognized success despite having come across problems and challenges. To ensure the steady and sustained implementation of “One country, Two Systems” and keep it on the right path, it is imperative for the administrators of Hong Kong to fully and faithfully understand and implement the policy.
All administrators of Hong Kong must fully recognize “One Country” as the premise and basis of “Two Systems,” unequivocally uphold the constitutional order as established by the Constitution and the Basic Law of the HKSAR, fully respect the socialist system practised by the main body of the state, correctly handle the relationship between the central authorities and the special administrative region; resolutely safeguard the national sovereignty, security and development interests, as well as the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong; firmly defend the bottom line of the “One Country, Two Systems” policy; and resolutely oppose external forces meddling with the affairs of Hong Kong.
Within the framework of the “One Country, Two Systems” policy, the central government does not directly involve itself in the daily operations of the HKSAR government. The HKSAR enjoys a high degree of autonomy, including executive and legislative powers as well as an independent judiciary and the power of final adjudication. The degree of autonomy enjoyed by the HKSAR is far greater than that of states in a federal system. The qualifications of administrators are therefore critically important in determining whether or not the “One Country, Two Systems” policy can be fully and faithfully implemented in Hong Kong. It would be fair to say that upholding the principle of “patriots administering Hong Kong” has a vital bearing on the successful practice of “One Country, Two Systems”, a point that must be made crystal clear.
That the power to administer Hong Kong, a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China, must be placed in the hands of patriots is politically ethical and perfectly justified. Is there any country in the world that would entrust regional jurisdiction to those who refuse to identify with their own nation, display no loyalty to their country, and serve as willing political agents of external forces? Or even those who advocate and commit subversive activities to jeopardize the country’s fundamental interests? It is a universal practice to apply a robust standard of patriotism and political qualification to administrators.
In the United States, for example, political allegiance is required not only for public office holders, but also for the average citizens. Only those who meet the requirement of political allegiance can hope to take up public offices. In almost all countries and regions around the world, people contesting public offices invariably compete to demonstrate patriotism. Hong Kong is the only place where some people had the effrontery to parade acts of betrayal to their country as political capital; others went further to canvass supporters with slogans which declare they were against the country and the Central Government, or demonize their own nation; some pulled deplorable political stunts while taking oaths of office. This is truly absurd and preposterous!
Having lost the most basic political ethics and national dignity, such people have made themselves despicable laughing stock. Upholding the principle of “patriots administering Hong Kong” is therefore not a stringent standard but the most basic requirement for implementing the policy of Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong. Such requirement is not exclusive to Hong Kong, but is applicable throughout the world.
II. The administration of Hong Kong by patriots is the demand of the times in advancing the cause of “One Country, Two Systems”.
Hong Kong’s experiences since its return to the motherland more than 20 years ago have profoundly proved that the “One Country, Two Systems” policy is not only the best solution to the historical question of Hong Kong, but also the best institutional arrangement to ensure its long-term prosperity and stability, thanks to its great vitality and systemic advantage. We will continue to resolutely and unwaveringly implement the “One Country, Two Systems” policy under which Hong Kong is administered by the people of Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy. Meanwhile, we are well aware that the practice of “One Country, Two Systems”, an unprecedented and groundbreaking cause, has not been all smooth sailing, as evidenced in a series of incidents and problems that disrupted the course of “One Country, Two Systems” and challenged its principle and bottom line. The “July incident” of 2003 forced the HKSAR government to shelve the national security legislation as required by Article 23 of the Basic Law. The “anti-national education movement” of 2012 exacerbated the inadequacies in national education, with damages still being felt today. The unlawful “Occupy Central” movement of 2014 was orchestrated to directly challenge the “August 31 decision” of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee regarding the method of selecting the Chief Executive by universal suffrage. The “Mong Kok riot” on the second day of the Chinese New Year in February 2016 erupted as protests descended into street violence. The situation deteriorated in 2019 when the turbulence over the proposed amendment bill ravaged Hong Kong, which was beset by separatist campaign, street violence, “mutual destruction” sabotage, terrorist threats and a destructive “color revolution”. These incidents and the deep involvement of external forces plunged Hong Kong into protracted chaos, with the rule of law ravaged, society polarized, economy devastated and international image damaged.
Another issue of concern is that anti-China, destabilizing forces and separatists had exploited various elections to infiltrate the SAR’s structure of governance, including the Legislative Council , the Chief Executive Election Committee and District Councils. As a result of the turbulence over the proposed amendment bill, some pro-violence, “mutual destruction” and separatism activists won the 2019 District Council (DC) elections and subsequently turned the public institutions, whose statutory functions are to provide community and grassroots services, into a raucous political battleground. They exploited the DC as a platform to push separatist agenda, reject the authority of the Central Government, whip up anti-mainland sentiment, obstruct the administration of the HKSAR government and harm the well-being of Hong Kong residents, oblivious to the heavy price they inflicted on Hong Kong society. Some of the newly elected district councilors went so far as to put up notice at office premise that reads: “Blue ribbons and dogs not allowed to enter”, while others were arrested on charge of assisting anti-China, destabilizing activists in fleeing Hong Kong. Things weren’t any better at the Legislative Council. For the first time since Hong Kong returned to the motherland in 1997, rowdy opposition lawmakers made it impossible for the Chief Executive to deliver her annual Policy Address in October 2019. The legislature’s House Committee was made dysfunctional for over six months as the result of malicious filibustering by some anti-China, destabilizing lawmakers, which left 14 bills and over 80 auxiliary regulations stalled and the legislature virtually paralyzed. Some legislative and district councilors peddled fallacies such as “breaking the law to achieve justice” and “civil disobedience”, and used them to provide cover for black-clad rioters and “mutual destruction” activists. And they went all out to malign the police force that dutifully performed to safeguard law and order. Some of these anti-China, destabilizing activists even brazenly propagated the “10-steps to mutual destruction” scheme, which plotted to grab the power to administer Hong Kong by winning a majority in both the legislature and the Chief Executive Election Committee, and subsequently nominating a candidate of their own to win the office of Chief Executive. Seizing the governing power and destabilizing Hong Kong were in fact only part of their goal. They also conspired to destabilize the mainland, and to subvert the leadership of the Communist Party of China as well as the socialist system with Chinese characteristics, ultimately disrupting the course of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. Being of the same ilk with the black-clad rioters on the streets, they are political “mutual destruction” activists, who pose as much threat to Hong Kong as to the country.
It has come to my attention that people from different sectors of Hong Kong society are rethinking the things that have transpired since the turbulence over the proposed amendment bill and the 2019 District Council elections. So are we. Why were local and external hostile forces able to stir up troubles in Hong Kong under “One Country, Two Systems” and even dominate some political institutions or sectors? Complex historical factors, deep-seated social issues and the international environment are all at play here. One of the direct causes is that the principle of “patriots administrating Hong Kong” had not been fully observed, be it in the executive, legislative and judicial institutions of the HKSAR, non-governing organizations such as the District Council, or the sectors of education and media. Just imagine what will the future hold for Hong Kong if the anti-China, destabilizing forces are given a free pass to seize the power to administer Hong Kong, and to engage in activities endangering national security and Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, or if external forces are allowed to meddle with Hong Kong’s political affairs such as elections? Will Hong Kong have peace at all? Will it be able to maintain its status as an international center of finance, trade and shipping? Will vital livelihood issues such as housing and employment, the biggest concerns of Hong Kong residents, be effectively resolved? Will the “One Country, Two Systems” policy be able to carry on?
In the aftermath of the turbulence over the proposed amendment bill, and in light of the gravest situation since Hong Kong’s return to the motherland, the Central Authorities moved decisively to enact and enforce the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the HKSAR, and to support the HKSAR Government in bringing to justice those endangering national security. Such move effectively safeguarded national security and Hong Kong’s law and order as well as the rule of law, helping the city achieve a major shift from chaos to order, bring things back on the right track and embark on the next phase of development. As public opinion suggested recently, people from all walks of life in Hong Kong have more than ever felt the need to set the record straight on the cardinal issue of “patriots administrating Hong Kong”. And it is a collective responsibility for all to ensure the effective implementation of the fundamental principle.
III. Uphold the objective standards and requirements for “patriots administering Hong Kong”.
How to judge whether a person is a patriot? Comrade Deng Xiaoping defines a patriot as one who “respects the Chinese nation, sincerely supports the motherland resuming the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong, and wishes not to impair the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong”. This exposition of Deng Xiaoping, intended mainly for pre-handover Hong Kong, laid down a broad-brush definition, which embodied the political magnanimity of the Communist Party of China. Patriotism is ultimately about whether or not one has a patriotic heart, which is what Comrade Deng Xiaoping meant by “sincerely”. By reviewing what happened both before and after Hong Kong’s return, especially the track records of both patriots and anti-China, destabilizing activists, one can make a clear distinction between the two. Their differences are evident in the following three areas:
1. Patriots are inevitably committed to upholding China’s national sovereignty, security and development interests. In other words, patriots would never do anything that harms national sovereignty, security and development interests of the country, whereas the reverse is true for the anti-China, destabilizing forces. In his key-note speech at the ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the motherland, President Xi spelled out “three bottom lines” regarding the “One Country, Two Systems” policy, emphasizing that any attempt to endanger national sovereignty and security, challenge the power of the Central Authorities and the authority of the Basic Law of the HKSAR, or use Hong Kong to carry out infiltration and sabotage activities against the mainland is an act that crosses the line, and is absolutely impermissible. It is safe to say that it is the most basic requirement for a patriot not to engage in activities endangering national sovereignty and security. How can one claim to be a patriot if he or she can’t even meet this standard? It is an objective standard. No patriots would have hysterically attacked the Central Government, brazenly pushed for “Hong Kong independence”, badmouthed the country and Hong Kong on the international stage, or stooped to begging foreign countries to impose sanctions on China and the HKSAR. The national security law in Hong Kong proscribes four types of offenses that gravely endanger national security and contains corresponding punishments. Those who violate the national security law cannot be classified as patriots.
2. Patriots are inevitably committed to respecting and upholding the fundamental system of the country and the constitutional order of the HKSAR. The country is not an abstract concept and neither is patriotism. Patriotism means the love of the People’s Republic of China. The Constitution is the fundamental law of the country, from which derives the Basic Law of the HKSAR. Article 1 of the Constitution stipulates: “The socialist system is the basic system of the People’s Republic of China. The leadership of the Communist Party of China is the defining feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics. Sabotage of the socialist system by any organization or individual is prohibited.” Upholding the fundamental system of the country as enshrined by the Constitution as well as the authority of the Constitution is the shared responsibility and obligation of all Chinese people, including Hong Kong compatriots. The Constitution must be upheld and violation of it breaks the law. Upholding the authority and dignity of the Constitution is an inevitable requirement for every Chinese citizen, and a code of conduct for patriots. The People’s Republic of China was founded by the people under the leadership of the Communist Party of China. In this country, which practices socialist democracy, the dissent of some people is permitted. But it is impermissible to undermine the fundamental system of the country, namely the socialist system under the leadership of the Communist Party of China. The “One Country, Two Systems” policy constitutes an important part of socialism with Chinese characteristics; the Communist Party of China is the leader of socialism with Chinese characteristics, as well as the creator and leader of “One Country, Two Systems” . How can anyone claim that they uphold the ” One Country, Two Systems” policy but oppose its creator and leader? Wouldn’t that be self-contradictory?
The constitutional order of the HKSAR, laid down by the country’s Constitution and the Basic Law of the KHSAR, specifies the legal status of the HKSAR within the country and its relationship with the central government. Article 12 of the Basic Law of the HKSAR stipulates: “The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be a local administrative region of the People’s Republic of China, which shall enjoy a high degree of autonomy and come directly under the Central People’s Government.” This provision specifies the legal status of the HKSAR and sets out the scope of the SAR’s autonomy and its relationship with the central government. To respect and uphold the constitutional order of the HKSAR, it’s imperative to resolutely safeguard national integrity, sovereignty and security; to accurately understand and handle the superior-subordinate relationship between the central government and the SAR; sincerely respect and safeguard the powers vested in the central government by the Constitution and the Basic Law of the HKSAR; and properly exercise the SAR’s high degree of autonomy. Those who challenge the fundamental system of the country, refuse to accept Hong Kong’s constitutional order or deliberately twist it cannot be classified as patriots.
3. Patriots are inevitably committed to upholding the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong. It may not be a stringent requirement not to do anything that hurts the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and the well-being of Hong Kong people. But only patriots can live up to this requirement. The anti-China, destabilizing activists can’t possibly meet this requirement. In this regard, the black-clad rioters, “mutual destruction” activists and separatists have exposed their true colors. The “mutual destruction” forces have no qualms to destroy Hong Kong, and use the threat of destruction to coerce the public and the central authorities. They couldn’t care less if people lose their jobs, businesses go bankrupt, the economy plummets, the rule of law suffers, or if Hong Kong’s reputation gets hurt. Today it has become evident more than ever that the “mutual destruction” activists have proven themselves to be saboteurs of Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, be they on the streets, in the legislature or district councils. Of course they cannot be classified as patriots.
Some people in Hong Kong declared that “it is fine to love Hong Kong but not the country”. It is an absurd argument. The HKSAR is an inalienable part of the People’s Republic of China. The Basic Law of the HKSAR expressly stipulates that the chief executive, principal officials of the SAR government, members of the Executive and Legislative Councils, judges of courts at all levels and other members of the judiciary must swear oaths of allegiance to the HKSAR government of the PRC. Hong Kong isn’t any special administrative region, but one of the People’s Republic of China. One who pledges allegiance to the HKSAR government should first of all bear allegiance to the PRC. By the same logic you either love both Hong Kong and the country or neither, or set them against each other. Loving Hong Kong and loving the country cannot be a binary choice. Those who claim to love Hong Kong but not the PRC cannot be classified as patriots.
Judging by the criteria listed above, we are fully confident that the vast majority of Chinese citizens in Hong Kong are patriotic. In the unpatriotic camp is a small number of anti-China, destabilizing activists. Such people are easy to identify. They maliciously obstruct and sabotage the operation of the SAR administration; intentionally undermine the constitutional order under “One Country, Two Systems”; serve as willing foot soldiers for external forces or even stoop to begging external forces to interfere in the affairs of Hong Kong; attempt to use Hong Kong as a forward base for infiltrating the mainland and carrying out sabotage and subversive activities. These are the small number of people who pose threats to the national sovereignty, security and development interests. They have clear agenda and have resorted to actions. They are the saboteurs of the “One Country, Two Systems” policy, and cannot be allowed, now or ever, to infiltrate the administrative structure of the HKSAR. Not now, not ever. As for those diehard anti-China, destabilizing activists, such as Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, Benny Tai Yiu-ting and Joshua Wong Chee-fung, they must be not only barred from public offices of authority in the HKSAR, but also severely punished for the crimes they committed. During the past over 20 years since the return of Hong Kong, numerous facts have proved that the anti-China, destabilizing activists were the source of destruction, chaos and terrorist threats. Only patriots are truly able to care for the well-being of the people of Hong Kong, contribute to the SAR’s prosperity and stability, and promote harmonized development of Hong Kong and the motherland.
It is worth noting that by emphasizing the principle of “patriots administering Hong Kong”, we do not mean “one color for all”. The vast majority of Hong Kong residents are traditionally patriotic. Patriots have always been broadly defined. Hong Kong is the meeting place of Chinese and Western cultures. It is a diverse and pluralistic society. Due to having long lived in this capitalist society under the influence of Western education and culture, some local residents are lacking in their knowledge of, or even biased against, the country and the mainland. The central authorities are understanding and inclusive of people with such attitudes, and are fully confident that they will stay patriotic, distance themselves from the anti-China, destabilizing forces, and proactively participate in the administration of Hong Kong.
Here is the point that I’d like to emphasize. Those who hold important offices, wield significant powers and shoulder important responsibilities in the governance structure of the HKSAR have to be unflinching patriots. In other words, they should be held to a higher standard of patriotism. The reason is simple: powers come with corresponding responsibilities. Is there a country or region in the world where people wielding public powers are not held to a higher standard of political and moral integrity than the average citizens?
In the case of the HKSAR, those shouldering important administration responsibilities should meet the following requirements: 1) Fully and faithfully implement the “One Country, Two Systems” policy. They must systematically study and grasp the essence of the “One Country, Two Systems” policy, and expertly apply the policy in the analysis and resolution of various difficulties and problems Hong Kong faces. No matter what difficulties and challenges they meet, they must always remain steadfast and unwavering in the “One Country, Two Systems” policy, always stay firmly committed to serving the fundamental interests of the country and the overall interests of Hong Kong, steering the right course and upholding principles. 2) Uphold principles and have a strong sense of responsibility. In matters of major principles concerning the country’s national sovereignty, security and development interests, and Hong Kong’s long-term prosperity and stability, the administrators of the HKSAR must take the lead to make upholding the “One Country, Two Systems” policy their top responsibility, and resolutely fight against the acts that undermine the practice of “One Country, Two Systems”. Such efforts require strong sense of passion, responsibility and commitment. 3) Have the country’s best interests at heart. The practice of socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era, and the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is inexorable. Hong Kong’s destiny has been inextricably linked to that of the motherland, sharing its weal and woe. We must plan Hong Kong’s future from the strategic height of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and the country’s overall development, handling Hong Kong affairs well and advancing the practice of “One Country, Two Systems”. We must not hesitate or waver, and seize the strategic opportunities arising from the country’s comprehensive modernization drive by combining the strong backing from the country and opportunities from the world, by combining the needs of the country and the strong points of Hong Kong, and by combining the support of the motherland and Hong Kong’s own efforts. We must work toward a better future for Hong Kong and contribute to the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. 4) Uphold the spirit of solidarity. Unity is power. Patriots must share a common goal and a common ideal, taking joint efforts and standing united under the banner of loving the country and loving Hong Kong to stimulate the positive energy of the Hong Kong society and make it into a powerful force conducive to the administration of Hong Kong by patriots.
IV. Improve relevant systems to ensure “patriots administering Hong Kong”.
Recent public discussions in the Hong Kong society of issues concerning “patriots administering Hong Kong” have shown that the people of Hong Kong have felt more strongly than ever the utmost importance and urgency of ensuring the administration of Hong Kong by patriots, and I deeply appreciate it. The implementation of the principle of “patriots administering Hong Kong” entails multifaceted policy approach, the most crucial and urgent of which is to improve relevant systems, especially the speedy improvement of relevant electoral system, so that the power of administering Hong Kong is firmly kept in the hands of patriots. To achieve this goal, we must uphold the following principles:
1. The principle of strictly complying with the Constitution and the HKSAR Basic Law.
The improvement of the institutional system of “One country, Two systems” must be in accordance with the rule of law. The political structure of the HKSAR as established by the Basic Law of the HKSAR is a full embodiment of the “One country, Two systems” policy, is in line with the actual conditions of Hong Kong, and is conducive to safeguarding national security and Hong Kong’s long-term prosperity and stability. Further improvement of Hong Kong’s electoral system, which is to be conducted within the framework of the Constitution and the Basic Law of the HKSAR, is aimed at providing sound institutional guarantees for the administration of Hong Kong by patriots by plugging loopholes in relevant laws based on lessons drawn from the practice of “One country, Two systems” so far in Hong Kong since its return to the motherland. Hong Kong’s electoral system should serve to achieve the following objectives: fully respecting people’s democratic rights while effectively safeguarding the national sovereignty, security and development interests; respecting and upholding Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy while effectively ensuring the central authorities’ overall jurisdiction over the HKSAR; making sure various elections are fair, just and open while effectively preventing anti-China disruptors and political agents of international anti-China forces from entering the HKSAR’s power structure.
2. The principle of respecting the central authorities’ initiative.
Article 31 of the Constitution of China reads: “The state may establish special administrative regions when necessary. The systems instituted in special administrative regions shall, in light of specific circumstances, be prescribed by laws enacted by the National People’s Congress.” Article 62 (14) of the Constitution stipulates that the National People’s Congress (NPC) shall exercise the power to decide on the establishment of special administrative regions and the systems to be instituted there. In other words, the power to establish special administrative regions and decide on their systems to be instituted rests with the central authorities. The electoral system is an important part of both the political and institutional systems of the HKSAR, and its improvement must be conducted under the initiative of the central authorities. In fact, every major electoral reform in Hong Kong since its return was completed under the initiative of the central authorities. It should be noted that respecting the initiative of the central authorities does not contradict the power of the HKSAR government to handle local electoral affairs in accordance with the law. During the course of electoral reform, the central authorities will surely conduct in-depth communication with the HKSAR government and solicit views from all walks of life in Hong Kong.
3. The principle of conforming with the actual conditions of Hong Kong.
The improvement of Hong Kong’s electoral system should be designed in line with the local realities to develop an electoral system with Hong Kong characteristics, and by no means merely copy the electoral systems of foreign countries. In fact, there is no “one-fits-all” model of democratic electoral system in the world. The electoral system of the United States, for instance, is different from that of Britain. Both are designed in line with their own specific conditions, and are far from perfect. The chaos in the 2020 U.S. presidential elections and the January 6 Capitol riot are a reminder to us that we must remain sober-minded and not to blindly follow others in planning our electoral system, and that we must stay confident that the best system for Hong Kong is one that suits its actual conditions and is conducive to safeguarding national security and maintaining Hong Kong’s long-term prosperity and stability. “Only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches.” We must take into account the actual conditions of the HKSAR, expand public participation in an orderly manner, observe the principle of balanced participation to get rid of the limitations coming with sector’s, locality’s or group’s interests, and make sure the reformed electoral system can effectively safeguard the overall and fundamental interests of the Hong Kong society, Hong Kong’s long-term prosperity and stability, as well as the democratic rights and fundamental well-being of the vast majority of Hong Kong residents.
4. The principle of ensuring an executive-led political system.
According to the Basic Law, the political system of Hong Kong is an executive-led system headed by the Chief Executive, who is at the core and a dominant position of the SAR’s power structure and its operation. The Chief Executive is the head of both the SAR government and the entire special administrative region, and is accountable to the Central People’s Government on behalf of the SAR. To improve the electoral system of the HKSAR, we should explore ways to improve the relationship between the executive and the legislature so as to keep enhancing the efficacy of administration of the SAR government and elevate the SAR’s administration capacity and standards. For a pluralistic society like Hong Kong, it is natural to have divergent views and even big differences over some issues. But if Hong Kong gets caught in the maelstrom of “pan-politicization” with confrontations to be deliberately created, its socio-economic development will be seriously impaired. A society is hopeless when being mired in endless political wranglings. To improve the HKSAR’s electoral system, more deliberation should be given on how to settle disputes and build consensus, so that we can refocus communities’ efforts on the top priority of developing the economy and improving people’s livelihoods.
5. The principle of ensuring sound institutional safeguards.
“Patriots administering Hong Kong” should not be empty words but have institutional safeguards. After the HKSAR government disqualified a number of lawmakers, many people have called for a tighter scrutiny for the local civil servants so as to shut out anti-China disruptors. This is a suggestion that deserves our attention. We should improve relevant institutional systems and come up with effective measures to ensure those who work for the executive, legislature and judiciary of the HKSAR, and heads of its statutory bodies are genuine patriots. Under no circumstances should the key offices be taken by anti-China disruptors.
Since Hong Kong’s return to the motherland, the central government has steadfastly abided by the Basic Law and relevant decisions of the NPC Standing Committee, sincerely worked to advance the HKSAR’s democratic system in a progressive and orderly manner, and made greatest efforts to ensure Hong Kong residents exercise their democratic rights. The improvement of Hong Kong’s electoral system is therefore aimed at providing the guarantee for healthier and smoother development of Hong Kong’s democratic system. How is it possible for Hong Kong’s democratic system to advance if the power to administer Hong Kong cannot be firmly held in the hands of the patriots? The development of Hong Kong’s democratic system should not deviate from the fundamental principle of “patriots administering Hong Kong.”
Much of what I said today is but a “repetition of the same old tune”. Given that some people in Hong Kong and the rest of the world have intentionally distorted our music, it’s needed for us to re-play our old notes louder and clearer in a bid to reinstate the right tune. It has been almost 24 years since Hong Kong’s return to the motherland and nearly 22 years since the return of Macao. We must repeat this “same old tune” that the “One country, Two systems” policy will remain unchanged! Every effort we’ve made over the years, be it the law on safeguarding national security in the HKSAR or the improvement of the local electoral system, has been for the practice of “One country, Two systems” to sustain, improve and go steadily and further on the right track.
According to the traditional Chinese customs, the Chinese New Year holiday is until the 15th day of the first month in the lunar calendar. In the Year of the Ox, I wish we will have the tough spirit of the ox in our work to serve the people, drive innovative development and fight our way through difficulties, and that we will stay committed to down-to-earth, steady and concerted efforts in creating an even better tomorrow for both Hong Kong and Macao.
I’d also like to extend my best wishes to you and your families for your good health, and good luck. Thank you!