SCIO briefing: Views of experts and scholars on Hong Kong's current situation

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Seven experts shared their views on the current situation in Hong Kong at a press conference held by the State Council Information Office on Thursday. [Photo/China.org.cn]


Speakers:


Mr. Han Dayuan, director of the Institute for One Country Two Systems, professor of the Law School, Renmin University of China, member of the HKSAR Basic Law Committee of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC); 


Mr. Chen Duanhong, professor of the Law School, Peking University, member of the Macao SAR Basic Law Committee of the NPC Standing Committee; 


Mr. He Junzhi, vice dean and research fellow of the Institute for Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao Development Studies, professor of the School of Government, Sun Yat-sen University; 


Mr. Zou Pingxue, director of the Center for Basic Laws of Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions, professor of the Law School, Shenzhen University; 


Mr. Zhao Kejin, vice dean and professor of the School of Social Sciences, vice dean of the Institute of Global Development, Tsinghua University; 


Mr. Zhang Jian, director of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, secretary general of the Center for World Parties and Political Studies, the Shanghai Institute of International Studies; 


Mr. Tian Feilong, executive director of Center for Legal Studies in Regard to the One Country Two Systems, associate professor of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences and the Law School, Beihang University.


Chairperson:


Shou Xiaoli, Press Bureau of State Council Information Office


Date:


Aug. 15, 2019


Shou Xiaoli:

 

Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. Welcome to this press conference. In the past two weeks, we have held two press conferences and invited the spokespersons of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council to introduce its views and position on the current situation in Hong Kong. The two press conferences have attracted great public attention. Many journalists have told us that they wanted to interview more people coming from more walks of life.

 

To meet your request, today, we have invited seven experts from related areas of study. They will share their personal views on the current situation in Hong Kong from different perspectives. They are: Mr. Han Dayuan, director of the Institute for One Country Two Systems, professor of the Law School, Renmin University of China, member of the HKSAR Basic Law Committee of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC); Mr. Chen Duanhong, professor of the Law School, Peking University, member of the Macao SAR Basic Law Committee of the NPC Standing Committee; Mr. He Junzhi, vice dean and research fellow of the Institute for Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao Development Studies, professor of the School of Government, Sun Yat-sen University; Mr. Zou Pingxue, director of the Center for Basic Laws of Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions, professor of the Law School, Shenzhen University; Mr. Zhao Kejin, vice dean and professor of the School of Social Sciences, vice dean of the Institute of Global Development, Tsinghua University; Mr. Zhang Jian, director of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, secretary general of the Center for World Parties and Political Studies, the Shanghai Institute of International Studies; and Mr. Tian Feilong, executive director of Center for Legal Studies in Regard to the One Country Two Systems, associate professor of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences and the Law School, Beihang University.

 

Now, I will give the floor to Mr. Han Dayuan.

 

Han Dayuan:

 

Media friends, good afternoon. Today, there are several experts at this press conference. I am familiar with the focus of their academic studies, so I might act as an informal host on some occasions according to your questions. Now, please allow me to say a few initial words.

 

Since the proposal to amend two ordinances aroused social controversy in Hong Kong, especially after continuous illegal assemblies and violent acts occurred, the public have felt anxious and uneasy about the present severe situation of Hong Kong. In particular, on the night of Aug. 13, a violent act involving the illegal restriction of personal freedom took place. Some of the illegal assembly participants, against the rule of law, hindered the freedom of exit and entrance of a large amount of Chinese and foreign passengers, assaulted a passenger and a journalist, and even tied up the hands of the journalist. This is an open challenge to the rule of law, and is causing grave damage to Hong Kong's status as a society under the rule of law.

 

We can see that no one can be safe if the rule of law is damaged and the majesty of the rule of law is lost. The rule of law is a common value of human civilizations. It is the basic way of life in modern society. We need the rule of law because it can guarantee the freedom, dignity and security of all citizens and maintain social order. Meanwhile, an important function of the rule of law is to provide society and the public with a stable expectation. Therefore, the essence of the rule of law is that the government should govern according to the law, citizens should abide by the law, the judiciary should be independent, and existing rules and law procedures should be respected.

 

It is just on the basis of long-term confidence in the good order, security and freedom ensured by the rule of law that Hong Kong has become the prosperous and beautiful Pearl of the Orient. We have noted the statistics that Hong Kong ranked only around the 60th position globally in terms of the rule of law index in 1996 before its return to the motherland. In 2018, the ranking increased significantly to 16th. The rule of law has become the basic consensus and core value of Hong Kong society, and also the value that Hong Kong people are most proud of. However, the latest series of violent incidents have seriously undermined the value of the rule of law, gone beyond the basic bottom line of a society based on the rule of law, and deeply distressed the whole society and the people of the whole country.

 

In a society based on the rule of law, freedoms of speech, procession and assembly are strictly guaranteed. The Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) and the local laws of the HKSAR provide adequate guarantees for the people to exercise these freedoms. However, the exercise of any freedom must follow the requirements of rule of law. For example, Article 17 of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance explicitly requires that the right of peaceful assembly must not endanger national security and public safety, or disturb public order. In social life, it is normal that different people hold different political views, different opinions and different demands in regard to governance; if that wasn't true, we wouldn't need the rule of law. The rule of law firstly means a principle of governance and we must respect and abide by effective laws and rules, and act strictly in accordance with what is set by the laws. If we are not satisfied with certain laws and policies, including the government's public policies and laws, we can seek to revise and improve them through legal procedures. If we need a new law in some fields, there is a sound legal process to achieve this objective. However, any political demand that ignores rules, breaks rules and goes beyond the rule of law will ultimately hurt the rule of law.

 

As we all know, since Hong Kong's return to the motherland, the Constitution and the Basic Law of the HKSAR have jointly formed the foundation of Hong Kong's constitutional order. They clarify the legal status of the HKSAR under "one country," and the relationship between the central government and the region. These provisions are the core essence of the principle of "one country, two systems" and the Basic Law, and also are the foundation of the rule of law in Hong Kong. The primary objective of the principle of "one country, two systems" and the Basic Law is to safeguard national sovereignty, national unification and territorial integrity, and maintain Hong Kong's prosperity and stability. Any act that challenges national sovereignty and national unification breaches the bottom line of the principle of "one country, two systems," and cannot be tolerated by Hong Kong's legal order, either.

 

Dear media friends, in the face of serious violence and social division, the only way to solve the problem right now is that the whole of society should return to the track of rule of law, protect it and reach consensus in accordance with its provisions. I don't see any other way or method to solve problems but to return to the rule of law. I believe this is also the basic consensus of the vast majority of Hong Kong citizens. After more than two months of turmoil, people are hoping to solve various controversies currently facing Hong Kong society in a legal way. The day before yesterday, the Airport Authority Hong Kong obtained an interim injunction granted by Hong Kong's High Court, under which any person who unlawfully obstructs and interferes with airport operations must bear full legal responsibility. The legal consequences of violating the injunction are very serious. In fact. violators may be convicted of criminal contempt of court.

 

From such cases, we can see that the airport is beginning to recover and we have confidence in the rule of law in Hong Kong. Although it has been facing serious challenges in recent times, Hong Kong has a deep legal tradition, and the power of the rule of law is able to settle all kinds of disputes, bridge differences, regain consensus, helping Hong Kong society to quickly restore order and public security.

 

As scholars engaged in study of law and politics, we are also concerned about problems facing Hong Kong and are willing to share with journalists our views concerning the recent situation in Hong Kong, particularly on issues related to the rule of law. Nevertheless, we are scholars, not press spokespersons, so some of our views can only been considered from an academic viewpoint. Thank you.

 

Shou Xiaoli:

 

Thank you, Professor Han Dayuan. Now, the floor is open for questions. Please identify the news organization you represent before asking questions.

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