Defending the constitutional order to safeguard the rule of law in Hong Kong
The rule of law is the cornerstone for Hong Kong's success and a core value. The rule of law is crucial for Hong Kong to maintain long-lasting prosperity and stability. The remarkable journey in the past 25 years since Hong Kong's return to the Motherland proves up to the hilt the following two points. One is that the rule of law in Hong Kong keeps progressing with citizens' fundamental rights and freedoms fully protected. The second is that, in order to safeguard the rule of law, the constitutional order in the Hong Kong SAR established by the national Constitution and Basic Law must be safeguarded first. The more strengthened the constitutional order is, the more fully protected is Hong Kong's rule of law and a more solid foundation is laid for the steady and successful implementation of "one country two systems".
The Vision 2030 for Rule of Law International Symposium jointly hosted by the Department of Justice and several legal organisations, as one of the activities to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the Motherland, gathered government officials and legal scholars from various places in the world to promote exchange of views from various jurisdictions on the understanding and practice of the rule of law. In her speech at the symposium, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor pointed out that "With…the successful implementation of the 'one Country two Systems' framework, Hong Kong has come a long way as a leading international financial hub. We are, as well, the only common law jurisdiction within China. Hong Kong boasts an independent judiciary and fundamental rights and freedoms fully protected under the Basic Law. That is why Hong Kong is often the preferred choice for multinational co-operation when it comes to legal and dispute resolution services."
Carrie Lam specially quoted two figures. According to the Rule of Law Index 2021 [by the World Justice Project], Hong Kong maintains its fifth overall ranking in the East Asia and Pacific Region and 19th standing globally. This shows the rule of law in Hong Kong is recognised by the international community. It is noteworthy that in the same Index, the United Kingdom ranks 16th globally and the United States 27th. Hong Kong's ranking is close to the UK's but far better than that of the U.S. This is sufficient evidence that those assertions made by anti-China and trouble-making elements for long period of time about the "weakening" or even "death" of the rule of law in Hong Kong are all nonsensical. With its ranking falling far behind Hong Kong, the U.S. in particular has no reason to make carping comments on the matter!
In horizontal *** ysis, Hong Kong ranks quite high globally in the Rule of Law Index. In vertical *** ysis, the rule of law in Hong Kong has made great progress compared to the state of affairs before its return to the Motherland. In her speech, Carrie Lam also quoted the Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) by the World Bank Group to point out that Hong Kong's percentile rank in respect of the rule of law was only 69.85 in 1996 [before China's resumption of sovereignty over Hong Kong], but since 2003, it has remained consistently above 90. Figures are the most explanatory. Since its return to the Motherland, Hong Kong's rule of law has not been weakened but instead kept making great strides steadily. Those people are either ignorant or ill-intentioned, who lavish praise on "the rule of law" in Hong Kong under British colonial rule and assert that the rule of law in the SAR since Hong Kong's return to the Motherland "is rather retrogressing than progressing". They are not worth refuting.
On the other hand, since its return to the Motherland, Hong Kong has been up against various challenges. In particular, amid the unlawful "Occupy Central" in 2014 and the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill Turmoil starting in 2019, the ill wind of "independence for Hong Kong" once spread like a virus, indicating there were loopholes in Hong Kong's rule of law which opened opportunities for the anti-China and trouble-making elements to exploit to their advantage. Hong Kong's development faced a serious threat. Under the circumstances, the Central Government made a correct asses *** ent of the situation and worked out a set of countermeasures to comprehensively putting into practice the principle of "patriots governing Hong Kong" through legislating the Hong Kong National Security Law (The Law of the People's Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region) and improving Hong Kong's electoral system. This brings about the change for Hong Kong to transform from chaos to order and progress from stability to prosperity and ensures that citizens enjoy all kinds of rights and freedoms protected by the Basic Law. As events turn out, anti-China and trouble-making elements and the external forces behind them are saboteurs of Hong Kong's rule of law. It is the Central Government that is the staunch keeper and defender of the rule of law in Hong Kong.
Facts in the past 25 years since Hong Kong's return to the Motherland prove that public peace is hard-won and the rule of law in Hong Kong is not something to be taken for granted. Liu Guangyuan, commissioner of the Chinese Foreign Ministry in the HKSAR said in his speech at the Symposium that "To protect the rule of law in Hong Kong, we must safeguard the constitutional order established by the Constitution and the Basic Law first". Only under the guidance and protection of the national Constitution and Basic Law, can the spirit of the rule of law in Hong Kong be maintained and sustained, can "one country two systems" move forward steadily along the right track.
Like air and sunlight that is indispensable for a moment, the rule of law is closely related with citizens' well-being. With the implementation of "one country two systems" forging ahead, only when the constitutional order established by the national Constitution and Basic Law is firmly defended, can the fundamental interests of the 7.5 million Hong Kong people be truly protected.
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