A leading legal expert in Beijing has said that the Chinese constitution applies to Hong Kong, warning that any attempt to infiltrate or harm the mainland would be unacceptable.

Shen Chunyao, head of Basic Law Committee and the Legal Affairs Commission of the National People’s Congress’s standing committee, was visiting Hong Kong on Tuesday for a seminar on National Constitution Day. He is an expert on Hong Kong affairs.

Shen said the Chinese constitution was the country’s highest law and that it covered all territories of the country.

Shen Chunyao.

“Since the Handover of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has been under the jurisdiction of the Central People’s Government,” he said, describing Hong Kong as a local administrative region that had a high degree of autonomy. “The power of the constitution, of course, covers Hong Kong,” he added.

“Any attempt to jeopardise national security, challenge the authority of the central government and the Basic Law, or use Hong Kong to engage in subversive activities against the mainland, would be in breach of the bottom line and is not allowed,” he added.

Shen said the Chinese constitution and Hong Kong’s Basic Law are like “mother and son laws.”

“There is no constitutional arrangement whereby the Hong Kong SAR can be removed from the constitution, and there is no legal system allowing for it to be exempted from the constitution,” he said.

Officials and politicians attending the National Constitution Day forum. Photo: GovHK.

The event was also attended by Chief Executive Carrie Lam and China Liaison Office Director Wang Zhimin.

Speaking during the event’s question and answer question session was executive council member Ronny Tong. He asked what would happen if an individual in mainland China violated the article on upholding the unity of the country.

Ronny Tong.

Shen said citizens had to bear some responsibility by protecting the core interests of the Chinese people.

“Hong Kong compatriots just need to think about the difficulties the Chinese nation has faced in the past in trying to achieve a united motherland. And about what China still has to face with the Taiwan issue.”

“[Consider how] we still face serious terrorist separatist threats in Western China – Xinjiang and Tibet.  Then you will understand the meaning behind defending national security.”

Dennis Kwok. Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

Pro-democracy lawmaker Dennis Kwok said Article 1 of the Chinese constitution states that China is a socialist state. He went on to add that the Basic Law states the socialist system and policies shall not be practised in Hong Kong.

“I know he wanted to talk about the concept of ‘one country’ over ‘two systems.’ But I want to stress that for ‘One Country, Two Systems’ to work, other than respecting one country, we have to respect the differences between the ‘two systems’,” he said. “It is more practical to talk about the Basic Law in Hong Kong.”

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.