The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress reached a decision on Nov 11, clarifying the Basic Law’s stipulation on the eligibility of Hong Kong legislators. The NPCSC decision is built on solid statutory grounds and cannot be challenged by anyone but the NPCSC itself through due process. It has also laid a set of ultimate criteria that all would-be public officeholders must meet from now on. With the latest NPCSC decision, the country’s highest institution of state power has formalized the principle of “patriots governing Hong Kong” with clear criteria. It has won strong popular support in Hong Kong because the legally binding criteria will deter abusive acts such as unjustifiable filibustering in the Legislative Council, and separatist pursuits by any public officeholder. It is a much-needed legal safeguard for the faithful implementation of “one country, two systems” and the efforts to maintain healthy socioeconomic development in Hong Kong. It is safe to say the NPCSC decision has given the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government some powerful means to ensure sustainable development. As such, the pro-establishment community has more reason than ever to support and supervise the SAR government on fulfilling its constitutional duties as best it can.
The NPCSC has, in accordance with the Constitution, the Basic Law, the National Security Law for Hong Kong and relevant interpretations by the NPCSC, clarified the general rules for unseating a member of LegCo: If a lawmaker is found to have breached their oath of allegiance to the Basic Law and the HKSAR of the People’s Republic of China, that should be a good enough reason to disqualify that person immediately. Also, this decision is not in conflict with Article 79(7) of the Basic Law, which spells out the procedure of disqualifying a lawmaker under normal circumstances, while the latest decision was made to fix a new problem without precedence. It provides the legal grounds for the HKSAR government to officially announce the disqualification of the four opposition lawmakers immediately.
There is no doubt the latest NPCSC decision is constitutionally and legally sound. Its legal authority is beyond challenge and therefore adequate to ensure all public officeholders in Hong Kong firmly keep their allegiance to the HKSAR as well as that they uphold the Basic Law of the HKSAR, to which they all took an oath upon taking office. It clearly defines the boundaries of relevant rules governing matters of this nature and provides legal support for Hong Kong to pursue local legislation according to Article 104 of the Basic Law. With this legal boundary permanently drawn, the HKSAR now knows exactly how to deal with those who have deliberately crossed the bottom line — they will never be allowed to run for or hold public office.
Members of the LegCo must be true patriots, or they will be deemed unfit for the job. This requirement is necessary to ensure the faithful exercise of “one country, two systems” and maintain the authority of the nation’s Constitution and the Basic Law. The decision gets down to business right off the bat and spells out the conditions and process of determining if a lawmaker has legally lost their eligibility for a LegCo seat. From now on, Hong Kong will have a definitive standard for public officeholders to ensure “patriots governing Hong Kong”.
Members of the LegCo are obliged to uphold “one country, two systems” and the rule of law as well as to serve the best interest of Hong Kong society as a whole. It is therefore a lasting travesty that many opposition lawmakers have done far more harm than good in the past 23 years, much to the growing resentment of the public. A recent public opinion poll showed nearly 60 percent of respondents were fed up with opposition lawmakers’ overall performance since LegCo returned to work from summer recess and quarantine. They have gone out of their way to obstruct the SAR government’s operations, which is why up to 95 percent of respondents in the opinion poll said lawmakers who keep filibustering government bills and disrupting normal legislative business do not belong in LegCo. Many people find it absolutely unacceptable when opposition politicians openly object to the PRC’s exercising sovereign rule over Hong Kong, refuse to accept Hong Kong’s constitutional status as a special administrative region of the PRC, and collude with hostile forces outside Hong Kong to harm the overall interests of local residents as well as the national security of the country. No wonder the latest NPCSC decision has won overwhelming public support.
The central authorities have reiterated time and again that the principle of “one country, two systems” must be upheld and implemented faithfully without tampering or deviation. In the proposed draft 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25), it is emphasized that more efforts are necessary to “uphold the country’s sovereignty, national security and development interest, including the overall stability of the HKSAR”. The latest NPCSC decision is precisely aimed at preventing unjustifiable filibustering and cementing the executive-led governance system of the HKSAR, so as to improve the administrative efficiency of the SAR government and help Hong Kong speed up its economic recovery as well as restoring social stability. The resignation en masse of 15 opposition lawmakers can only mean they are determined to fight against “one country, two systems” as well as the central government and popular will of Hong Kong residents. That is no doubt in keeping with their “burn together” strategy and therefore doomed to end their political careers without ever affecting the socioeconomic and political development of Hong Kong.
The author is a current affairs commentator.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
HONG KONG NEWS