II. Establishment of the Special Administrative Region System in Hong Kong
The system of the special administrative region, as prescribed in the Constitution of the People's Republic of China and the Basic Law of the HKSAR, is a special administrative system developed by the state for certain regions. Under this system, the central government exercises overall jurisdiction over the HKSAR, including the powers directly exercised by the central government, and the powers delegated to the HKSAR by the central government to enable it to exercise a high degree of autonomy in accordance with the law. The central government has the power of oversight over the exercise of a high degree of autonomy in the HKSAR.
1. The Central Leadership Directly Exercises Jurisdiction over the HKSAR in Accordance with the Law
As prescribed in the Constitution of the People's Republic of China and the Basic Law of the HKSAR, the organs of power by which the central leadership directly exercises jurisdiction over the HKSAR are the NPC and its Standing Committee, the president of the state, the Central People's Government, and the Central Military Commission. The NPC decided on the establishment of the HKSAR, formulated the Basic Law of the HKSAR to prescribe the system to be instituted in the HKSAR, and has the power of amendment to the Basic Law. The NPC Standing Committee has the power of interpretation regarding the Basic Law of the HKSAR, the power of decision on revising the selection methods of the chief executive and the Legislative Council of the HKSAR, the power of supervision over the laws formulated by the legislative organs of the HKSAR, the power of decision on the HKSAR entering a state of emergency, and the power of making new authorization for the HKSAR. The HKSAR comes directly under the Central People's Government, and its chief executive is accountable to the Central People's Government. The Central People's Government appoints the chief executive and the principal officials, is responsible for foreign affairs relating to the HKSAR in accordance with the law, and issues directives to the chief executive. The Central Military Commission is the leading body of the Hong Kong garrison, and performs defense and other duties. The central authorities perform overall jurisdiction and constitutional duties as prescribed in the Constitution of the People's Republic of China and in the Basic Law of the HKSAR, and exercise effective administration over the HKSAR.
-Forming the power organs of the HKSAR. Prior to the return of Hong Kong, the Preparatory Committee of the HKSAR completed the organization of the Selection Committee of the First Government of the HKSAR. The Selection Committee elected Tung Chee-hwa as the first chief executive of the HKSAR, and then the Central People's Government appointed him as the chief executive. The Selection Committee also elected members of the interim Legislative Council. The first chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, appointed the judges of the Court of Final Appeal, and the chief justice of the High Court. The completion of the above work ensured the effective administration of the HKSAR by the central leadership upon its establishment. After the return of Hong Kong to China, the Central People's Government appointed Tung Chee-hwa, Donald Tsang and Leung Chun-ying, all elected, as chief executives of the HKSAR in that order, and appointed and dismissed key officials of their administrations. China's state leaders attended the inauguration ceremonies of the chief executives and key government officials, and heard them take their oaths of office.
-Supporting and guiding the administration of the chief executive and government of the HKSAR in accordance with the law. The chief executive reports his/her work to the central government on an annual basis, on the implementation of the Basic Law and other items for which he/she is accountable to the central government; and the state leaders give guidance to the chief executive on major matters related to the implementation of the Basic Law. The central government has established the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council as an administrative office of the State Council to handle Hong Kong and Macau affairs. The office works to implement the "one country, two systems" principle and related directives of the central government, and is responsible for communicating with the government of the HKSAR. The Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the HKSAR is a resident organ of the Central People's Government in Hong Kong. Its duties involve communication with the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the HKSAR and the PLA Hong Kong Garrison, the promotion of exchanges and cooperation between Hong Kong and the mainland in various areas, communication with personages from all sectors of Hong Kong society, and the handling of affairs involving Taiwan.
-Responsible for foreign affairs involving the HKSAR. First, the central leadership supports the HKSAR in actively carrying out international exchanges and cooperation; supports and assists the HKSAR in participating in international organizations and conferences in a proper capacity; assists the HKSAR in bidding to host important international conferences of various kinds, and supports the HKSAR in developing international conference centers, regional legal services and dispute settlement centers; supports the recommendation of Hong Kong residents to take up posts in international organizations; supports the promotion of visa waivers for HKSAR passport holders in other countries and regions; and supports the work of trade offices of the HKSAR government in other countries and regions. Second, the role of the central leadership also includes properly handling legal issues involving Hong Kong, such as the application of international conventions in Hong Kong. The number of multilateral treaties and amendments that have become applicable in the HKSAR now exceeds 170, and the number of agreements concluded with other countries with the authorization of the central government regarding investment protection, civil aviation, taxation and judicial assistance has reached 338. The central government assists the HKSAR in accepting reviews on the implementation of international conventions, supports it in maintaining and developing ties, and in signing and implementing treaties and agreements with other countries, regions and related international organizations in the name of "Hong Kong, China" in the areas of economy, trade, finance, maritime transport, communications, tourism, culture and sports. It also authorizes and assists Hong Kong in conducting judicial cooperation with other countries. Third, it ratifies the establishment of consulates and other governmental or quasi-governmental organizations of foreign countries in the HKSAR. Currently, there are 66 consulates-general set up by foreign countries under related agreements in the HKSAR, with 73 honorary consuls. Fourth, it strives to ensure the safety and legitimate rights and interests of Hong Kong compatriots while in other countries, and actively offers consular protection to Hong Kong travelers abroad. By the end of 2013, Chinese embassies and consulates overseas had handled over 10,000 cases of consular protection involving Hong Kong residents. Fifth, it prevents foreign forces from interfering in Hong Kong's affairs. Hong Kong's affairs are internal affairs of China, and the Chinese government has made timely representations with certain countries through diplomatic channels regarding their words and actions of interference. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has established the Office of the Commissioner in the HKSAR to attend to foreign affairs involving Hong Kong.
-Responsible for the defense of the HKSAR. The central leadership made the decision and authorized the formation of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Hong Kong Garrison in January 1996, and on December 30 the same year, the 23rd Session of the Eighth NPC Standing Committee adopted the Law of the People's Republic of China on Garrisoning the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. At midnight on July 1, 1997, troops of the PLA Hong Kong Garrison entered Hong Kong to take over the defense of the HKSAR. The Garrison's duties include guarding against and resisting aggression, ensuring the security of the HKSAR, performing defense services, managing military installations, and handling military affairs involving other countries in accordance with the law. The Garrison adheres to the law in performing its duties, and oversees military conduct in accordance with the law. It diligently fulfills its duties in defense, organizing sea and air patrols and carrying out search and rescue exercises in case of maritime or air emergencies, joint exercises of combined arms, and cross-district maneuvers, vigorously safeguarding China's sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Garrison also actively takes part in activities to promote the public good in Hong Kong, inviting local residents to visit the Garrison barracks and holding summer military camps for young students, in an effort to strengthen ties between the Garrison and the local community. All this has helped enhance the mutual understanding and trust between the Garrison and the people of Hong Kong, fully exemplifying the valor and good conduct of the PLA.
-Exercising power granted to the NPC Standing Committee by the Constitution of the PRC and the Basic Law of the HKSAR. First, the NPC Standing Committee keeps record of the laws drawn up by the legislature of the HKSAR for review. By the end of 2013, the HKSAR had reported a total of 570 local laws to the NPC Standing Committee for the record. Second, it adds or subtracts national laws applicable in the HKSAR as listed in Annex III of the Basic Law of the HKSAR. Currently, 12 national laws are listed in Annex III of the Basic Law of the HKSAR for implementation. Third, it makes new authorizations to the HKSAR. In 1996, the NPC Standing Committee empowered the HKSAR government to appoint its immigration department as the office to accept applications for nationality in the HKSAR and handle the applications in accordance with the Nationality Law and its interpretations. In 2006, the NPC Standing Committee authorized the HKSAR to run the Hong Kong section of the Shenzhen Bay Port in accordance with the laws of the HKSAR. Fourth, it makes interpretations regarding the Basic Law of the HKSAR. The NPC Standing Committee made interpretations of the related articles of the Basic Law in 1999, 2004, 2005 and 2011 on the following questions respectively: the right of abode in Hong Kong for permanent Hong Kong residents' children born outside Hong Kong and with Chinese nationality, the legal procedure for modifying the selection methods of the chief executive and the Legislative Council, the length of the term of a by-elected chief executive, and the principles of state immunity, and interpretations of relevant provisions in the Basic Law and its appendixes. Fifth, it decides on issues relating to the constitutional development in the HKSAR. The NPC Standing Committee made decisions in 2004 and 2007, respectively, on the selection method of the chief executive for 2007 and the Legislative Council for 2008, and the selection method of the chief executive, the Legislative Council and the general election for 2012. Sixth, it ratifies and keeps record of the amendments to the selection methods of the chief executive and Legislative Council of the HKSAR. In 2010, the NPC Standing Committee ratified the HKSAR's amendment to the selection method of the chief executive for 2012, agreeing to put on record the amendment to the selection method and voting procedure of the Legislative Council for 2012. Seventh, it keeps records of the appointment and removal of the judges of the Court of Final Appeal and the chief judge of the High Court of the HKSAR. In addition, according to the Basic Law of the HKSAR and relevant decisions of the NPC, the Basic Law Committee of the HKSAR of the NPC Standing Committee, established on July 1, 1997, when the Basic Law came into effect, is composed of members from the mainland and Hong Kong, and is responsible for providing opinions to the NPC Standing Committee on issues such as whether the laws drawn up by the HKSAR's legislature comply with the provisions of the Basic Law on the range of affairs responsible by the central government and the relationship between the central government and the HKSAR, on adding or subtracting the national laws applicable in Hong Kong as listed in Annex III and on the interpretation or revision of the Basic Law, and related issues.
2. The HKSAR Exercises a High Degree of Autonomy in Accordance with the Law
After the establishment of the HKSAR, the previous capitalist system and way of life remain unchanged in Hong Kong, and existing laws remain basically unchanged. Adhering to the law, the HKSAR protects the right of ownership of private property, maintains the status of Hong Kong as a free port and a separate customs territory, maintains independent finances, practices an independent taxation system, and formulates its own policies regarding trade, finance, education, science, culture, public health and sports. In accordance with the Basic Law of the HKSAR and the decision of the NPC Standing Committee on handling the laws previously practiced in Hong Kong, the laws previously in force in Hong Kong, that is, the common law, rules of equity, ordinances, subordinate legislation and customary law are maintained, except for any that contravene the Basic Law and are subject to any amendment by the legislature of the HKSAR. On this basis, the HKSAR exercises a high degree of autonomy, and fully exercises its administrative, legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication.
The chief executive of the HKSAR is the head of the Special Administrative Region. He/she represents the HKSAR and is accountable to both the Central People's Government and the HKSAR. The chief executive is also the head of the government of the Special Administrative Region, and exercises powers and functions conferred by the Basic Law, such as leading the government of the region and being responsible for the implementation of the Basic Law. While exercising his/her powers and functions, the chief executive shall implement the directives issued by the Central People's Government in respect of the relevant matters provided for in the Basic Law of the HKSAR. The government of the HKSAR is composed of permanent residents of Hong Kong in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Basic Law, with a Department of Administration, a Department of Finance, a Department of Justice, and various bureaus, divisions and commissions to exercise powers and functions such as formulating and implementing policies and conducting administrative affairs, as prescribed by the Basic Law. The HKSAR enjoys administrative power in a wide range of areas, including the economy, education, science, culture, sports, religion, social services, public order, and control of entry and exit of the region. In addition, the HKSAR conducts external affairs as authorized by the Central People's Government.
The Legislative Council of the HKSAR is the legislature of the HKSAR. It is formed by election, and exercises the following powers and functions in accordance with the Basic Law: enacting, amending or repealing laws in accordance with the provisions of the Basic Law and legal procedures; examining and approving budgets introduced by the government, and approving taxation and public expenditure, among others. The HKSAR enjoys legislative power in a wide range of areas, and is empowered to formulate laws relating to civil, criminal and commercial affairs, as well as judicial proceedings, for application in the region in accordance with the Basic Law. The laws drawn up by the Legislative Council of the HKSAR must be reported to the NPC Standing Committee for the record. If the NPC Standing Committee, after consulting the Committee for the Basic Law of the HKSAR, considers that any law enacted by the legislature of the region is not in conformity with the provisions of the Basic Law regarding affairs within the responsibility of the central leadership or regarding the relationship between the central leadership and the region, the Standing Committee may return the law in question but shall not amend it. Any law returned by the NPC Standing Committee is immediately invalidated.
The courts of the HKSAR at all levels are the judiciary of the region, exercising the judicial power of the region. After the establishment of the HKSAR, the Court of Final Appeal was established to exercise the power of final adjudication in the region. The judicial system previously practiced in Hong Kong is maintained except for those changes consequent upon the establishment of the Court of Final Appeal. The common law and relevant judicial principles and systems previously practiced in Hong Kong, including the principle of independent adjudication, the principle of following precedents, and the jury system, continue to apply. The courts of the HKSAR have no jurisdiction over acts of state such as defense and foreign affairs. They have jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases in the region, except that the restrictions on their jurisdiction imposed by the legal system and principles previously in force in Hong Kong are maintained. When adjudicating cases, the courts of the HKSAR may refer to precedents of other common law jurisdictions, and the Court of Final Appeal may as required invite judges from other common law jurisdictions to sit in the Court of Final Appeal.