President Xi Jinping said in his 2018 New Year message broadcast on Dec 31 that the Chinese people are ready to chart a more prosperous, peaceful future for humanity, along with people from other countries.
To the Chinese people, including Hong Kong residents, it is crucial that Hong Kong integrates its own development into the overall strategy of the country so Hong Kong compatriots can join nationwide efforts to achieve the historic rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and share the great glory of achieving lasting prosperity and growing national strength. To do so, we must help lay a solid foundation for a shared future of mankind by taking good care of our own businesses for the sake of the country, including the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
The Belt and Road Initiative is a great project China has launched to bring different countries together and build a shared future for mankind by striving for coordinated policies, connected infrastructure, unhindered trade, smooth capital flows and human understanding. Once these are achieved, particularly human understanding, building a shared future for mankind is only a matter of time.
It is impossible to understand the significance of Hong Kong’s participation in the Belt and Road Initiative and Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area development without seeing the enormous backdrop against which the two great projects take place. And only when people understand the significance of the B&R and Bay Area development can they see why the co-location arrangement for customs and immigration controls inside the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link terminus in West Kowloon is absolutely necessary.
So far the main argument for co-location has been efficiency of the XRL but the opposition’s stance that rule of law and Hong Kong’s core values should supersede XRL efficiency sounds reasonable to some ears. Therefore, we must not only explain why the co-location arrangement does not violate the “one country, two systems” principle or the Basic Law but also establish that it is indispensable to Hong Kong’s participation in the B&R and Bay Area development.
The core argument of the opposition camp and some barristers against co-location is that it violates Article 18 of the Basic Law. However, since the Basic Law is a national law that both the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong must follow, the opposing side should find themselves guilty as they did not object to the same arrangement for a “Hong Kong Port Area” at Shenzhen Bay inside Shenzhen, where Hong Kong immigration, customs and quarantine officers have enforced Hong Kong laws since 2007. If the opposition did not find the Hong Kong Port Area in Shenzhen violated Article 18 of the Basic Law 10 years ago, how can they eat their own words today?
The opposition camp held a protest march on New Year’s Day under the title of “Protect Hong Kong” and employed several slogans against the co-location arrangement, national security legislation according to Article 23 of the Basic Law and amending the Legislative Council’s Rules of Procedure. Apparently they are doing everything to keep Hong Kong separated from the mainland just as it was under British rule, even though that era ended in 1997.
After the July 1 mass protest march in 2003 forced the SAR government to shelve the plan for national security legislation according to Article 23 of the Basic Law, some local public intellectuals brought up the idea of a “shared future for Hong Kong”, which opposed the city being integrated into the country’s overall development strategy, and Hong Kong compatriots sharing the historic responsibility to achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
China has won understanding and moral support from many countries since Xi called for joint efforts to build “a shared future for mankind”. And mainland compatriots have shown great confidence in the country’s ability to succeed despite many differences in political and legal systems as well as ideologies around the world. When nations of the world pursue peaceful coexistence and all-win results through international cooperation, how can Hong Kong society become a part of the efforts to build a shared future for mankind if it can’t even find common ground with mainland compatriots?
The legal profession in Hong Kong ought to understand that rule of law must enable social progress as well as maintain social order; social progress includes economic development, which depends on social order. When social progress, including economic development, enters a transitional period the rule of law must be kept up to date, too. That means certain laws should be amended, abolished or replaced with new ones.
Hong Kong’s future lies in integration of its own development into the overall development of the country. It must not let anyone use rule of law as an excuse to block socio-economic development. Let no one forget the Basic Law of the HKSAR is born of the Constitution of the country and Hong Kong has been able to keep the common law system because of it.
(The author is a senior research fellow of China Everbright Holdings)
(Published on Page 6, China Daily Hong Kong Edition, January 10, 2018)