A top legal official from Beijing urged Hongkongers on Tuesday to safeguard China’s constitution and sovereignty, warning that any activities challenging the central government’s authority would not be tolerated.
Shen Chunyao, chairman of the Basic Law Committee and the Legislative Affairs Commission of China’s top legislative body, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC), described the Chinese constitution as having a “mother-son” and “higher-lower” relationship with Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law.
It would be inaccurate to separate the two when trying to understand the city’s constitutional position, he told a gathering of about 300 Hong Kong pupils at a forum to mark National Constitution Day.
Shen said the national constitution was the fundamental, highest law of the country and its authority extended to Hong Kong as well.
“All Chinese people, including Hongkongers, and all state institutions have to safeguard the dignity of the constitution and ensure its implementation,” he said.
“Any acts that jeopardise national sovereignty and security, and challenge the authority of the central government and the Basic Law, will be deemed to have touched the bottom line, and will absolutely not be tolerated.”
The forum was organised by an education centre co-founded by Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, previously Hong Kong’s sole delegate to the NPCSC, and the audience included Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and senior officials.
The pupils present were from more than 10 secondary schools. Some told the Post they were in Secondary Three and had registered voluntarily through their schools to attend the forum.
Shen’s remarks come at a time of intense debate over the issue of allegiance in Hong Kong. On Sunday, opposition lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dick became the 10th person since 2016 to be disqualified from running for election over the issue.
He was barred from contesting a rural representative election after the returning officer said Chu had “implicitly” maintained support for the possibility of Hong Kong breaking away from China.
On Tuesday, Lam said the decision to disqualify Chu was based on the Rural Representative Election Ordinance which states that only those who uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region are allowed to run for elections. The Basic Law states the city is an inalienable part of China.
Tuesday’s forum was the first event at which Shen made a public speech in Hong Kong since taking up his position in March this year. He heads the Basic Law committees of both Hong Kong and Macau and his appointment was viewed as a move to highlight the importance of the Chinese constitution in both cities.
During the question and answer session at the forum, barrister Ronny Tong Ka-wah, an adviser in Lam’s cabinet, the Executive Council, cited Article 52 of the constitution which states that “citizens have the obligation to safeguard national unity” and asked what the consequences of violating it were in mainland China and Hong Kong.
Shen replied: “Safeguarding national unity is the common will and core interest of all Chinese people. Hong Kong people, if you only think about the Taiwan problems China is still facing, and the terrorist and separatist forces in Western parts like Xinjiang and Tibet, you would understand the huge significance of safeguarding national security.”
He expressed hope the city could do more to educate Hongkongers, particularly public officers, about the constitution and the Basic Law to strengthen understanding of the concepts of the state.
He also referred to the “one country, two systems” principle, urging Hongkongers to respect the mainland system as well, keeping in mind that “one country” was the foundation of “two systems”.