An Important Decision to Ensure the Smooth Implementation of “One Country, Two Systems” in Hong Kong
Chinese Ambassador to Iceland Jin Zhijian
31 March 2021
On March 11, the fourth session of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC) in China approved a decision on improving the electoral system of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), which has attracted worldwide attention and been covered by the Icelandic media. I would like to make a brief introduction on the issues of common concern.
I. Why does the electoral system of the Hong Kong SAR need to be improved now?
Since Hong Kong’s return, the central government of China has all along fully and faithfully implemented the policy of “one country, two systems”, “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong” and a high degree of autonomy. We have run Hong Kong affairs according to law, upheld the constitutional order in the Hong Kong SAR as established by the Constitution and the Basic Law, supported the development of democracy in the Hong Kong SAR and guaranteed the exercise of democratic rights by residents of the Hong Kong SAR in accordance with the law. However, in recent years, especially after the turbulence over the amendment bill in 2019, anti-China, destabilizing forces and radical localists in Hong Kong have openly called for “Hong Kong independence”. They used the election platforms of the Hong Kong SAR to carry out anti-China and destabilizing activities, which have seriously jeopardized the constitutional order and the order of rule of law in the Hong Kong SAR, posed a grave challenge to the authority of the Constitution, the Basic Law and the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong SAR, put China’s national sovereignty, security and development interests into serious jeopardy and severely disrupted social stability of the Hong Kong SAR. These situations reveal that the existing electoral system in the Hong Kong SAR has clear loopholes and deficiencies. Therefore, it is imperative to take necessary actions to improve the electoral system in order to remove the existing institutional deficiencies and risks to ensure the administration of Hong Kong by Hong Kong people with patriots as the main body. This in turn will ensure effective and law-based administration in the Hong Kong SAR and keep the implementation of “one country, two systems” always on the right track. The Hong Kong SAR is part of China. In unitary states, it is a common constitutional provision and political practice for the central government to decide how local elections are held. It is a common practice for many countries including the United States to fill loopholes of electoral system timely. China’s action is legitimate, reasonable and necessary.
II. Does the NPC decision mean the end of the “one country, two systems”?
To improve the electoral system is not to deny or abandon “one country, two systems”. On the contrary, it is to return to its very foundation and ensure the steady practice of “one country, two systems”. No one understands the preciousness of “one country, two systems” better than the Chinese government, which sticks to the original aspiration of the policy more persistently than anyone else. “One country, two systems” should be understood and implemented comprehensively and objectively. It must be seen as one inseparable concept. “One country” is the basis and precondition for the viability of “two systems”. Without “one country”, “two systems” will no longer exist. If let anti-China rioters in Hong Kong to exploit institutional loopholes and have their way, they would challenge the “one country” and undermine the foundation of “two systems”. All China's actions are intended to improve the institutional framework of “one country, two systems” and maintain its effective execution and implementation. There is absolutely no such thing as changing the “one country, two systems” policy.
III. Will the improvement of Hong Kong’s electoral system restrict the democratic rights of Hong Kong residents?
Chinese government has always firmly supported the Hong Kong SAR in developing a democratic system suitable for its actual situation by stages. Democracy had simply been nonexistent in Hong Kong during UK’s 150-plus years of colonial rule, and has only been established since its return to China, which has offered Hong Kong people democratic rights they never enjoyed before. The NPC’s decision will lead to a new electoral system that suits Hong Kong’s realities and reflects the interests of society. It will ensure extensive and balanced political participation, and defend the rights of every permanent resident of Hong Kong to vote and stand for election. The purpose is to provide an institutional guarantee for the principle of “patriots administering Hong Kong”. Since Hong Kong’s return, “patriots administering Hong Kong” has been an essential principle of “one country, two systems”. Loyalty to the motherland is a basic political ethic of all public office holders and aspirants anywhere in the world. It is also common international practice to demand that people in public office pledge loyalty to their motherland. It is only natural that Hong Kong shall be administered by people who love their motherland. The principle of “patriots administering Hong Kong” does not mean that we will drive out diversity. “Patriots” cover a wide scope, and we have always been broad-minded towards those with different political opinions. There are also patriots among the opposition camp, especially the pan-democrats. They can still participate in elections and be elected in accordance with law. In the future, the Legislative Council of Hong Kong will enjoy broader representation of Hong Kong society. Different voices will still be heard at the Legislative Council of Hong Kong, including criticism of the government.
Decision on improving the electoral system of the Hong Kong SAR has the staunch endorsement of all the Chinese people, including Hong Kong compatriots. A survey conducted by the Hong Kong Research Association shows that around 70 percent of the respondents support the NPC decision. At the 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council, 70 countries delivered a joint statement to voice their support for China on issues related to Hong Kong. I hope everyone strictly observe the principle of non-interference, a basic norm governing international relations, respect and support China’s decision, and contribute to Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability. I believe that Hong Kong will embrace a brighter future and this “Pearl of the Orient” will shine with more brilliant luster in the near future.