Raymond Tam, a local deputy to the National People’s Congress, has suggested that the city’s top government officials should swear to uphold China’s constitution.

Tam, the former secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs, made his suggestion at an earlier meeting of the national legislature.

Raymond Tam
Raymond Tam. File Photo: Gov HK.

Article 104 of the Basic Law stipulates that when assuming office, the chief executive, principal officials, members of the Executive Council, members of the Legislative Council, judges and other members of the judiciary should swear to uphold the Basic Law and swear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

Tam told TVB news in an interview: “The ‘One Country, Two Systems’ and ‘high degree of autonomy’ that Hong Kong people care the most about are implemented through the Basic Law. The Basic Law was formed through the constitution.”

“Therefore, to uphold the constitution means to defend ‘One Country, Two Systems,’ ‘Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong’ and the ‘high degree of autonomy,’ [which] continue to be applicable to Hong Kong,” he added.

Tam said he was not suggesting that members of the judiciary should swear to uphold the constitution.

top officials oath Xi Jinping
Top officials taking oath in the presence of Chinese President Xi Jinping on July 1, 2017. File Photo: GovHK.

Article 31 of the Chinese constitution stipulates that: “The State may establish special administrative regions when necessary. The systems to be instituted in special administrative regions shall be prescribed by law enacted by the National People’s Congress in the light of specific conditions.”

Tam’s comments came after state leaders on Saturday conducted a first-of-its-kind oath taking at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing after taking their new positions.

The latest version of the oath taken by state leaders said: “I swear to be loyal to the country and the people, be committed and honest in my duty, accept the people’s supervision and work for a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful.”

Xi Jinping
Chinese President Xi Jinping taking the oath on March 17, 2018. Photo: Screenshot.

Earlier this month, the National People’s Congress passed amendments to its constitution – the first since 1982. As part of the changes, a line was added to Article 1 stressing that “the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party is the most essential feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

Asked if swearing to uphold the constitution meant swearing allegiance to the Communist Party, Tam said it meant swearing to uphold the political system.

“Our constitution is of the country, not of a party. Of course it refers to the multi-party consultation system led by the Communist Party,” he said.

Tam also said he did not believe swearing to uphold the constitution will affect Hong Kong civil servants’ political neutrality.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.