Zhang Dejiang, Chairman of the National People’s Congress and Rao Geping, Chinese representative member of the Basic Law Committee have recently and respectively made important speeches in relation to the 20th anniversary of the implementation of the Basic Law. The Progressive Lawyers Group (“PLG”) is deeply disturbed by some of the contents of these speeches, believing that they are in contradiction to the “One Country, Two Systems” framework stipulated by the Basic Law. The following is an outline of the major relevant points:

I. The Basic Law stipulates “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong

  1. As described in the preamble of the Basic Law, the PRC Government and the British Government signed the Joint Declaration affirming that upon resumption of the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong, the PRC Government would establish a Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (“HKSAR”) under the PRC’s fundamental policy of “One Country, Two Systems”. Annex 1 to the Sino-British Joint Declaration sets out specifically the fundamental policies of the PRC Government in respect of Hong Kong, which include, Hong Kong enjoys “a high degree of autonomy, except for foreign and defence affairs which are the responsibilities of the Central People’s Government”, Hong Kong being vested “with executive, legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication”, and that the Government and legislature of Hong Kong “shall be composed of local inhabitants”.
  2. The National People’s Congress therefore regulates the system to be implemented in Hong Kong through the Basic Law, which expounds the above fundamental policy of “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong”. The individual provisions of the Basic Law set out in more detail how such fundamental policy shall be applied. This includes the establishment of Hong Kong’s executive, legislative and judicial power, that the executive and legislative authorities shall be composed of the people of Hong Kong, and that the Chief Executive of Hong Kong shall be a Hong Kong person and elected by Hong Kong people, only upon which shall be appointed by the Central Government, etc.
  3. Zhang also confirmed in his speech that the PRC’s fundamental policies of “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong” and “high degree of autonomy” remain unchanged.
  4. The most important provision establishing “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong” in the Basic Law is Article 22, i.e. “No department of the Central People’s Government and no province, autonomous region, or municipality directly under the Central Government may interfere in the affairs which the HKSAR administers on its own in accordance with this Law.” The Chinese Constitution stipulates that the National People’s Congress is vested with all powers of the State. Even the executive authorities are established by, responsible to and subject to the supervision of the National People’s Congress. Given that the Basic law passed by the National People’s Congress is not only the mini constitution of Hong Kong, but also national law, even the executive authorities of the Central Government must comply with the Basic Law and “shall not interfere in the affairs which the HKSAR administers on its own in accordance with this Law”.
  5. In Zhang and Rao’s speeches, they say regulations have to be stipulated and particularised, in order to implement the principle where “the Central Government orders and directs the Chief Executive”. Unfortunately, both of them did not state the ambit of the relevant “orders” or “directions”.
  6. If the relevant “orders” or “directions” concern “foreign and defence affairs”, then they fall within the responsibility of the Central Government. Articles 13 and 14 of the Basic Law state that they are to be handled by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ office in Hong Kong and military forces stationed by the Central Government in Hong Kong.
  7. In contrast, if such orders and directions do not fall within the ambit of “foreign and defence affairs”, then they are local affairs. According to Article 16 of the Basic Law, the HKSAR shall “on its own” conduct the administrative affairs of the region. Therefore, PLG cannot see any basis how any department of the Central Government could set regulations on making orders or directions to the Chief Executive without violating Article 22 of the Basic Law.

II. The Basic Law grants the HKSAR with legislative power

  1. Besides, Zhang also mentioned that particularised regulations should be stipulated in order to implement “the power to review the reported laws of the HKSAR”.
  2. Article 17 of the Basic Law states that the HKSAR shall be vested with legislative power. Laws enacted by the legislature of Hong Kong must be reported to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (“NPCSC”) for the record. The reporting for record shall not affect the entry into force of such laws. If the NPCSC, after consulting the Committee for the Basic Law, considers that any law enacted by the legislature of Hong Kong is not in conformity with the provisions of the Basic Law regarding affairs within the responsibility of the Central Government or regarding the relationship between the Central Government and the HKSAR, the NPCSC may return the law in question but shall not amend it. Any law returned by the NPCSC shall immediately be invalidated. This invalidation shall not have retroactive effect, unless otherwise provided for in the laws of the HKSAR.
  3. It can be seen that the NPCSC only has the power to return the laws of Hong Kong when the same violates the relevant provisions of the Basic Law on the affairs governed by the Central Government or provisions on the relationship between the Central Government and the HKSAR. If the relevant laws do not touch upon the affairs governed by the Central Government, or the relationship between the Central Government and the HKSAR, then the NPCSC does not have the authority or power to return the relevant laws.
  4. Again unfortunately, Zhang did not mention the ambit of “the power to review the reported laws of the HKSAR”. If “the power to review the reported laws of the HKSAR” covers matters other than the affairs governed by the Central Government or the relationship between the Central Government and the HKSAR, there will be a clear breach of Article 17 of the Basic Law.

III. Laws are not political tools

  1. In a society which celebrates the “rule of law”, the law does not only regulate the social system, but also restricts the powers of the government and protects the rights of its people.
  2. As explicitly stated in the preamble of the Basic Law, the Basic Law shall be “prescribing the systems to be practised in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region”. Chapter IV has also detailed and regulated the checks and balance of the powers among the executive, legislature and judiciary of the HKSAR. Article 4 and Chapter III of the Basic Law list out all the rights enjoyed by Hong Kong people.
  3. The “rule of law” does not equal to “rule by law”. On the contrary, one of the important indications of “rule of law” is whether the government is also bound by the law. Article 35 of the Basic Law safeguards Hong Kong peoples’ rights to commence legal proceedings in the courts against the power of the executive authorities, which means the people may initiate judicial review against the decisions or policies of the executive authorities. This is a significant part in the chain of manifesting the “rule of law”.
  4. In their speeches, Zhang and Rao suggested using “strong legal arms” to resolve all sorts of issues, and “institutionalising and normalising” the interpretation of the Basic Law to become a “sharp legal weapon”. Such thought is essentially an example of “rule by law”, turning the law into a tool of settling political needs. This is not the spirit of the “rule of law” by which Hong Kong has long been dependent on to achieve success.
  5. The spirit of the “rule of law” is one of the most important cornerstones for Hong Kong’s success all this time. Should the “rule of law” be affected by politics, the prosperity of Hong Kong would definitely be swayed.
  6. PLG believes that the speeches of Zhang and Rao cast doubts on whether the fundamental policies of the PRC, namely “One Country, Two Systems”, “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong”, and “high degree of autonomy”, as stipulated by the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law, still remain unchanged.
  7. PLG hopes that apart from Hong Kong people, all departments of the Central Government must also learn the Basic Law as said by Zhang, and not to distort or even violate the Basic Law.

Progressive Lawyers Group

30 June 2017

 

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全國人大委員長張德江及基本法委員會中方委員饒戈平,最近先後就《基本法》實施20周年分別發表重要講話。法政匯思對部份發言內容深感不安,認為這些內容和《基本法》所規定的「一國兩制」存在矛盾。概略說明以下相關重點:

一、《基本法》規定「港人治港」

  1. 如《基本法》序言所述,中英兩國政府簽署了《聯合聲明》,確認中國政府於恢復對香港行使主權後,按照「一國兩制」的國家基本方針政策,設立香港特別行政區。《中英聯合聲明》附件一載明中國政府對香港的基本方針政策的具體說明,包括「除外交和國防事務屬中央人民政府管理外」,香港特區「享有高度的自治權」,「行政管理權、立法權、獨立的司法權和終審權」,香港特區政府和立法機關「由當地人組成」。
  2. 全國人大因而通過《基本法》,規定香港實行的制度,闡明上述「港人治港」的基本方針政策。《基本法》的不同條文,更詳細規範此等基本方針,包括特區的行政、立法與司法權,行政機關和立法機關由香港人組成,及行政長官必須為香港人,由港人透過選舉產生,才再由中央任命等等。
  3. 張德江亦在講話中確認「港人治港」、「高度自治」的國家基本方針始終不變。
  4. 《基本法》確立「港人治港」的其中一條最重要的條文為第二十二條,即「中央人民政府所屬各部門、各省、自治區、直轄市均不得干預香港特別行政區根據本法自行管理的事務。」中國的憲法規定,全國人大擁有國家一切權力,即使行政機關也是由全國人大產生,並須對其負責,受其監督。全國人大通過的《基本法》除了是香港的小憲法外,亦是全國性法律。因此即使「中央政府各部門」,亦必須遵守《基本法》,「均不得干預香港特別行政區根據本法自行管理的事務。
  5. 張德江和饒戈平在談話中,指出要制定和細化有關規定,落實「中央政府向行政長官發出指令」、指導工作。不幸地,張德江和饒戈平皆沒有指明有關指令的範疇。
  6. 若有關指令是圍繞「外交和國防事務」,屬中央政府負責的範疇,《基本法》第十三和十四條已指明,由外交部駐港機構和駐軍負責。
  7. 相反,若該等指令並不屬「外交和國防事務」,實屬本地事務,按《基本法》第十六條規定,由特區「自行處理」。法政匯思看不到任何基礎「中央政府部門」可以違反《基本法》第二十二條,制定規定向行政長官發出有關指令。

二、《基本法》規定特區享有「立法權」 

  1. 另外,張德江亦在談話中,提出要制定和細化有關規定,落實「對特別行政區法律備案審」。
  2. 《基本法》第十七條規定,香港特區享有立法權。香港的立法機關制定的法律須報全國人大常委會備案。但備案不影響該法律的生效。全國人大常委會在徵詢基本法委員會後,如認為香港立法機關制定的任何法律,不符合《基本法》關於中央管理的事務及中央和特區的關係的條款,可將有關法律發回,但不作修改。經全國人大常委會發回的法律立即失效。該法律的失效,除香港特區的法律另有規定外,無溯及力。
  3. 由此可見,全國人大常委會有權發回的香港法律,必須是違反《基本法》關於中央管理的事務及中央和特區的關係的條款。若有關法律不涉中央管理的事務,或中央和特區的關係,則全國人大常委會並無權發回。
  4. 再次不幸地,張德江沒有在談話中,指明對特區法律「備案審」的有關範疇。若對特區法律「備案審」的有關範疇,不涉中央管理的事務,或中央和特區的關係,則有關規定明顯違反《基本法》第十七條。

三、法律並非政治工具 

  1. 在一個「法治」社會內,法律除了規範社會的制度外,亦限制政府的權力,更保障市民的權利。
  2. 《基本法》的序言已指明,《基本法》「規定香港特別行政區實行的制度」。《基本法》第四章亦詳細規範了特區的行政、立法與司法機關的權力及互相的制衡。《基本法》第四條及第三章詳細列明了市民所獲保障的權利。
  3. 「法治」並不等同「以法治國」。相反,「法治」的其中一個重要指標,正正是政府是否受法律規範。《基本法》第三十五條,保障市民可以起訴行政部門的權力,亦即市民可以司法覆核行政部門決定或政策的權力,便是體現「法治」的重要一環。
  4. 張德江和饒戈平在談話中,指出以「強大的法律武器」解決各種問題,甚至令釋法「制度化、常態化」成為「法律利器」。此想法實是「以法治國」,將法律作為解決政治需要的工具,而非香港社會一直賴以成功的「法治」精神。
  5. 香港一直以來的成功,其中一塊最重要的基石,正是其「法治」精神。若「法治」的精神受政治的影響,香港的繁榮穩定亦肯定會受動搖。
  6. 法政匯思認為張德江和饒戈平的談話,實在令人懷疑《中英聯合聲明》及《基本法》所訂明的「一國兩制」、「港人治港」、「高度自治」的國家基本方針是否有變。
  7. 法政匯思希望除了香港市民外,中央政府各部門亦必須如張德江所說,認真學習《基本法》,而非歪曲甚至違反《基本法》。

法政匯思

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