Chinese officials working on reforms related to HK's Basic Law, judiciary

Under the new security law in Hong Kong, civil servants are required to pledge allegiance to Hong Kong and the Basic Law.
Under the new security law in Hong Kong, civil servants are required to pledge allegiance to Hong Kong and the Basic Law.PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG • A senior Chinese official has said that the authorities are working on reforms related to semi-autonomous Hong Kong's mini-Constitution, including its judicial system.

Mr Zhang Xiaoming, the deputy director of China's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, told a legal summit in the global financial hub yesterday that moves to "perfect" the legal system in Hong Kong would not undermine judicial independence.

The former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the promise of a high degree of autonomy under a "one country, two systems" agreement that guaranteed freedoms unavailable in mainland China and an independent judiciary. But after prolonged anti-government and anti-China protests last year, Beijing introduced a sweeping national security law on June 30 that critics say aims to quash dissent. Supporters say the law restores stability in China's most restive city.

"We need to see the Basic Law as something that is alive so we can interpret the Basic Law whenever necessary," said Mr Zhang, referring to Hong Kong's mini-Constitution. He added that the authorities are looking to push through more "Basic Law-related work". He also said the work was related to "oath optimisation" and "qualification screening" for civil servants, national education and judicial reform, but did not elaborate.

Under the new security law, civil servants are required to pledge allegiance to Hong Kong and the Basic Law.

Mr Zhang said the moves were aimed at correcting "wrongful activities" and covering loopholes.

"Right now is time to sort out what is true and what is false," Mr Zhang said, stating that people who do not recognise the "motherland" or threaten the country's national security do not fall in line with the Basic Law.

Mr Zhang's comments come after Beijing passed a resolution last week to empower the Hong Kong authorities to disqualify lawmakers deemed a threat to national security without having to go through courts.

Hong Kong then immediately expelled four legislators, prompting opposition pro-democracy lawmakers to resign en masse in protest.

"Only those who are patriotic should be in place, otherwise they should be removed from the system," Mr Zhang said.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 18, 2020, with the headline 'Chinese officials working on reforms related to HK's Basic Law, judiciary'. Subscribe