Hong Kong has maintained its prosperity and stability in the two decades since its reunification with the motherland. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has also seen the successful implementation of the Basic Law over the past 20 years.[Special coverage]
The success of Hong Kong on several fronts shows, in more ways than one, the Basic Law is the legal guarantee of its prosperous development.
First, the "one country, two systems" policy is the guiding principle of the Basic Law and based on China's Constitution. To fully realize the "one country, two systems" policy, it is necessary to follow and respect the Basic Law. The principle of "one country, two systems" is unique to China, which makes the Basic Law of the Hong Kong SAR a law with Chinese characteristics.
Second, China's Constitution is the legislative basis of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong SAR, which should be fully understood. China's Constitution and the Basic Law are the joint basis of the rule of law in Hong Kong. In other words, the Basic Law is the SAR's constitutional law, drawn up by the National People's Congress, the country's top legislature, and specifically based on Article 31 of China's Constitution. As such, no laws in Hong Kong can contradict the Basic Law.
Third, the relationship between the central government and the SAR should be based on the Basic Law, which makes the former the "authorization" subject and Hong Kong the "authorized" subject. Therefore, the power of the SAR depends on the stipulation of the Basic Law as well as the degree of authorization from the central government.
The central government has the power to revise and interpret the Basic Law, deal with national defense issues and diplomatic affairs, as well as appoint the chief executive (CE) and other major officials of the SAR. The high degree of autonomy Hong Kong enjoys gives it administrative, legislative and independent judicial powers, and the power to make the final judgment within its range of authorization, which should not be confused with absolute autonomy.
Hong Kong enjoys some autonomous rights that even the states of some federal countries don't. For instance, Hong Kong independently issues its currency notes－the Hong Kong dollar. Moreover, the SAR doesn't need to pay part of its tax revenues to the central government or follow the family planning policy practiced on the Chinese mainland. All these are part of the high degree of autonomy Hong Kong enjoys.
Fourth, in Hong Kong, the CE is the head of the political system, which means the CE plays a core role in administration. Hong Kong is a "world city" and an international finance, shipping and logistics hub. And only if Hong Kong efficiently implements the Basic Law and related policies can it create a good investment environment to facilitate the rapid development of the SAR's economy.
Hong Kong is also known across the world as a society that follows and respects the rule of law, which is based on the Basic Law. So safeguarding the authority of the Basic Law is conducive to maintaining Hong Kong's prosperity, development and stability. And since the Basic Law of the Hong Kong SAR is a statutory law that incorporates plenty of local judicial precedents, the development of the rule of law in Hong Kong will help strengthen the rule of law in the whole of Chinese society.
The author Wang Lei is a professor of law in Peking University.