As a groundbreaking initiative, “one country, two systems” is a major issue of governance to the central leadership, and marks a major historical turning point for Hong Kong and Hong Kong people as well. The continued practice of “one country, two systems” in Hong Kong requires that we proceed from the fundamental objectives of maintaining China’s sovereignty, security and development interests and maintaining the long-term stability and prosperity of Hong Kong to fully and accurately understand and implement the policy of “one country, two systems”.
“One country, two systems” is a holistic concept. The “one country” means that within the PRC, HKSAR is an inseparable part and a local administrative region directly under China’s Central People’s Government. As a unitary state, China’s central government has comprehensive jurisdiction over all local administrative regions, including the HKSAR. The high degree of autonomy of HKSAR is not an inherent power, but one that comes solely from the authorization by the central leadership. The high degree of autonomy of the HKSAR is not full autonomy, nor a decentralized power. It is the power to run local affairs as authorized by the central leadership. The high degree of autonomy of HKSAR is subject to the level of the central leadership’s authorization. There is no such thing called “residual power.” With China’s Constitution stipulating in clear-cut terms that the country follows a fundamental system of socialism, the basic system, core leadership and guiding thought of the “one country” have been explicitly provided for. The most important thing to do in upholding the “one country” principle is to maintain China’s sovereignty, security and development interests, and respect the country’s fundamental system and other systems and principles.
The “two systems” means that, within the “one country” the main body of the country practices socialism, while Hong Kong and some other regions practice capitalism. The “one country” is the premise and basis of the “two systems and the “two systems” is subordinate to and derived from “one country.” But the “two systems” under the “one country” are not on a par with each other. The fact that the mainland, the main body of the country, embraces socialism will not change. With that as the premise, and taking into account the history of Hong Kong and some other regions, capitalism is allowed to stay on a long-term basis. Therefore, a socialist system by the mainland is the prerequisite and guarantee for Hong Kong’s practicing capitalism and maintaining its stability and prosperity. For Hong Kong to retain its capitalist system and enjoy a high degree of autonomy with “Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong” according to the Basic Law, it must fully respect the socialist system practiced on the mainland in keeping with the “one country” principle and, in particular, the political system and other systems and principles in practice. The mainland should respect and tolerate the capitalism embraced by Hong Kong while upholding its socialist system, and draw on the successful experience of Hong Kong in economic development and social management. Only by respecting and learning from each other can the “two systems” in the “one country” coexist harmoniously and achieve common development.
In this regard, the Constitution of the PRC and the Basic Law together constitute the constitutional basis of the HKSAR. We should have a full understanding of the provisions of the Basic Law. All the provisions of the Basic Law underlie the HKSAR system. They are not isolated from but interrelated with each other. Each of these provisions must be understood in the context of the Basic Law and the HKSAR system as a whole. We should respect and uphold the power of interpretation and amendment of the Basic Law vested in the NPC and its Standing Committee. We should improve the systems and mechanisms related to implementing the Basic Law, which will help enhance its authority.
As the practice of “one country, two systems” continues and the Basic Law is further implemented, it is imperative to further improve the systems and mechanisms in relation to the implementation of the Basic Law. In particular, it is necessary to, with an eye to the lasting peace and order in Hong Kong, exercise well the power invested in the central government as prescribed in the Basic Law and see to it that the relationship between the central government and HKSAR is indeed brought onto a legal and institutionalized orbit.