By Abbas Mwalimu
The National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, on 11 March, adopted a decision aimed at improving the electoral system of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) during its fourth session of the 13 th NPC. On 30 March, members of the NPC Standing Committee voted unanimously to adopt the amended Annex I and Annex II to the Basic Law of the HKSAR, thereby changing the method for the selection of the HKSAR Chief Executive and the method for the formation of the HKSAR Legislative Council and its voting procedures.
According to Chinese lawmakers, the said decision and amendments aim at ensuring that Hong Kong is administered by people who love the country and love Hong Kong, and they were adopted in accordance with relevant provisions in the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China and the Basic Law of the HKSAR, which form the constitutional basis of Hong Kong’s governance system.
A recent survey conducted by the think-tank Bauhinia Institute reveals that nearly 70 percent of Hong Kong residents support the aforementioned decision, and over 80 percent of Hong Kong people recognize the necessity of upholding the “patriots administering Hong Kong” principle. Nonetheless, major Western countries, notably the G7 members, alleged that China’s decision on improving Hong Kong’s electoral system will erode democracy in Hong Kong. As we know, Hong Kong is part of China’s territory and China resumed the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong on 1 July 1997.
The articles of the Sino-British Joint Declaration imply the following facts which are crucial to the correct understanding of the Hong Kong issue from a legal viewpoint:
Firstly, China is a sovereign state, and it has supreme control over its own affairs as long as it does not contravene the international law.
Secondly, since Hong Kong is part of China, Western countries, including the UK, have no right to interfere in Hong Kong affairs.
Thirdly, Article 2 of the Sino-British Joint Declaration obliges the UK to “return” the occupied territory (Hong Kong) to its real owner, the People’s Republic of China. That is why the word “restore” was used in the Declaration. The responsibility of the UK over Hong Kong ended on 1 July 1997 when the British colonialists handed over Hong Kong to China.
Fourthly, there was a certain period of time given for preparations before handover, and this was the transition period from 27 May 1985, when the Sino-British Joint Declaration came into force,1 to 1 July 1997, the date of handover. According to the Declaration, Britain had liability over Hong Kong during the transition period and that accountability ended officially on 1 July 1997.
Specifically, such behaviors of the Western countries violate the principle of non-interference in sovereign states’ internal affairs when they rebuked China’s effort to improve the electoral system of the HKSAR. The principle of non-interference, enshrined in Article 2.4 of the UN Charter, is a significant part of the international law.
According to Article 3 (12) of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the basic policies of Chinaregarding Hong Kong will be stipulated in a Basic Law of the HKSAR by the NPC and they will remain unchanged for 50 years. This was based on the fact that the British capitalism has a historical impact on Hong Kong while the People’s Republic of China is a socialist country governed by the Communist Party of China. Nevertheless, this article does not prevent China from adopting any decision which will have a positive impact on the political, social and economic stability and prosperity of Hong Kong.
The allegations raised by Western countries against China aim at boosting their agents in Hong Kong to continue disrupting the normal operation of the legislative and executive organs in Hong Kong, trying to grab power and subvert Chinese and Hong Kong authorities. They called on Chinese and Hong Kong governments to allow unpatriotic persons to contend for Hong Kong Legislative Council (LegCo) seats so as to control the LegCo and block the execution of duties by the Chief Executive.
A good example in that regard is when the House Committee of the LegCo of the HKSAR was preparing for legislative work for full-council meetings in October 2019, it was brought to a standstill for over six months due to malicious filibusters and violence by opposition lawmakers.
The stalled legislative process led to an enormous backlog of bills that have directly affectedHong Kong people’s livelihoods.
In my opinion, it is healthier for the UK and other Western countries to stop interfering inChina’s internal affairs and instead concentrate on researching on the reasons and the ways in which China attained substantial progress in achieving its domestic and foreign policyobjectives. Again, it is much healthier for the UK and other Western countries to observe theinternational law which actually regulates interactions between and among sovereign states for mutual benefit instead of condemning China. The UK and the US in particular should adhere to the non-interference principle and interpret the Sino-British Joint Declaration in good faith. China’s decision to improve Hong Kong’s electoral system is legitimate and deserve respect from foreign countries.
(The writer is a political analyst based in Dar es Salaam, Email: [email protected])