Fifty years is just a “figurative saying” and Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” will not be altered come 2047, a top Beijing legal official has said.

Shen Chunyao
Shen Chunyao, chairman of the Basic Law Committee and Legislative Affairs Commission of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, speaks at a legal conference on May 27, 2022. Screenshot: RTHK.

“With the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region coming up, people naturally will review and think about today, the future, and what the next 50 years will be like,” said Shen Chunyao, chairman of the Basic Law Committee and Legislative Affairs Commission of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee.

“In reality, 50 years is just a figurative saying. There will not be changes after 50 years… the first 50 years cannot change. There is no need to change after 50 years,” he said.

Shen was speaking at a legal conference on the Basic Law – Hong Kong’s mini constitution – to mark the city’s upcoming 25th anniversary of its return to mainland China.

The “one country, two systems” principle, under which Hong Kong has been governed since 1997, refers to the allowance of rights and freedoms in the city that are absent across the border in mainland China. It is set to expire in 2047.

Gold Bauhinia Square
Flag-raising ceremony at the Gold Bauhinia Square. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Xia Baolong, director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, also said in March that Hong Kong would not see changes to the governing framework.

Handover anniversary

Hong Kong will mark the 25th anniversary of its handover and halfway point under the 50-year one country, two systems system on July 1. It will also see John Lee, the incoming chief executive who was the sole candidate in the small-circle leadership race earlier this month, take the reins from incumbent leader Carrie Lam.

It remains unclear if Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who oversaw the swearing in of Lam in 2017, will travel to Hong Kong to install Lee.

Meanwhile, a top Beijing official said at a legal symposium on Thursday that the rule of law was the “engine” behind the success of one country, two systems.

The Commissioner's Office of China's Foreign Ministry in the Hong Kong SAR
Photo: The Commissioner’s Office of China’s Foreign Ministry in the Hong Kong SAR.

Liu Guangyuan, commissioner of China’s foreign ministry office in Hong Kong, also appeared to hit out at Western nations, adding that “some countries… impose unilateral sanctions without basis.”

The US has sanctioned some 30 Chinese and Hong Kong officials seen as instrumental in quashing Hong Kong’s freedoms. He did not name the US in his speech.

“For example, they claim to promote democracy, but in fact put together a false-flag democracy summit, build exclusive blocs to isolate others and incite confrontation based on ideological differences and hype up the absurd narrative of democracy versus authoritarianism,” Liu added.

Lam said on Tuesday that activities to mark the 25th anniversary will go on with the easing of the Covid-19 pandemic. A music video celebrating the date will be released next week.

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Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.