Necessary step to put things right
Qualification of Legislative Council members clearly defined
Stringent rather than loose approach in fighting epidemic
15 November 2020
The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC) has recently made a decision on the qualification of Legislative Council (LegCo) members, providing clear guidance on the legal consequence of their failure to fulfill the legal requirements of “upholding the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China” and “bearing allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China”. The decision is a necessary step to uphold and improve the “One Country, Two Systems” regime, safeguard national security, uphold the constitutional order in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) in accordance with the law, and put things right for Hong Kong. It is also conducive to the steady implementation of “One Country, Two Systems” in the long term.
A constitutional, lawful and reasonable decision to make
As a permanent body under the National People’s Congress, the highest organ of state power, the NPCSC is vested with the power to interpret the Basic Law, monitor its implementation and handle any constitutional problems arising therefrom in accordance with the law. Its decision on the qualification of LegCo members is not only constitutional, lawful, reasonable and rightful, but also fully complies with the relevant provisions of the Basic Law and has a solid legal basis. It is beyond doubt that the decision is unchallengeable, and any criticism questioning its legality is simply fallacious.
Safeguarding the country’s bottom line – a natural act beyond dispute
President Xi Jinping stated explicitly at the Inauguration Ceremony of the current-term HKSAR Government on 1 July 2017 that any attempt to endanger China’s sovereignty and security, challenge the power of the Central Government and authority of the Basic Law of the HKSAR, or use Hong Kong to carry out infiltration and sabotage activities against the Mainland is an act that crosses the red line, and is absolutely impermissible.
The HKSAR is an inalienable part of China. The LegCo is not only the legislature of the HKSAR, but also an integral part of the HKSAR’s constitutional framework. It is absolutely natural and beyond dispute that LegCo members shall uphold the Basic Law and bear allegiance to the HKSAR.
While there is a bottom line of “One Country”, boundaries are set for “Two Systems”. All LegCo members have rights and powers in their official capacity, including the right to express different views and the power to monitor the Government. It was so in the past and will remain so in the future. Nonetheless, it does not mean that one can act arbitrarily when exercising such powers. Inviting foreign countries to impose sanctions on China and Hong Kong is a wilful disregard of the interests of the two places and hence absolutely intolerable. LegCo members who repeatedly paid visits to foreign countries for lobbying their governments or organising activities to solicit sanctions against Hong Kong can hardly satisfy the requirements and conditions for appointment as a LegCo member as prescribed in the Basic Law.
The decision to uphold “One Country, Two Systems” is not political suppression
The NPCSC’s decision does not lead to the disqualification of all non-pro-establishment legislators but only four members who have been confirmed by law as failing to fulfill the requirements of “upholding the Basic Law and bearing allegiance to the HKSAR”. I must stress that the NPCSC’s decision only targeted such acts as endangering national security and soliciting intervention by foreign or external forces in the HKSAR’s affairs. It is absolutely not a means to eliminate dissidents or silence dissent, nor is it any form of political suppression.
It is indeed unwise and irresponsible of those non-pro-establishment legislators, who chose to resign from the LegCo, to relinquish their capacity to monitor the Government and voice their opinions. Their resignation, however, will not cause any disruption to the normal operation of the LegCo. The Government will, as always, co-operate sincerely with the LegCo in a pragmatic manner for the well-being of Hong Kong people and the development of Hong Kong.
Some people have been using democracy, human rights and freedom as a pretext for their own agenda. They even made fallacious remarks like “democracy is regressing”, “One Country, Two Systems has ended” and “One Country, One System has begun” to smear and attack the country. Such statements are far from the truth. Those people with the ill intention of undermining Hong Kong people’s patriotism and fuelling negative sentiments towards the country will never succeed. I must also point out that Hong Kong matters are the internal affairs of the People’s Republic of China, in which foreign governments should not interfere.
Over 2 600 civil servants have signed the declaration
It has consistently been the duty of civil servants to uphold the Basic Law, bear allegiance to the HKSAR and be responsible to the HKSAR Government under the Basic Law and the Civil Service Code. Appointees to civil service posts should in no uncertain terms acknowledge and accept these duties. On October 12, the Civil Service Bureau (CSB) issued a circular to all departments, promulgating the requirement for all civil servants joining the HKSAR Government on or after July 1 to sign a declaration, as a condition of employment, to uphold the Basic Law, bear allegiance to the HKSAR and be responsible to the HKSAR Government.
In case a prospective appointee refuses to sign the declaration, Heads of Department/Grade should treat him/her as failing to meet the conditions for appointment and the conditional offer shall lapse accordingly. Those who have assumed duties on or before the issue date of the circular are also required to sign the declaration. There were over 2 600 new recruits joining the civil service between July 1 and October 12 (both dates inclusive). So far, none of them have declined to sign the declaration and hence faced termination of employment.
As regards the arrangements for serving civil servants, the CSB has carried out consultation in accordance with the established mechanism, gathered views and studied the matter. It is finalising the arrangements and will make an announcement in due course.
Stringent rather than loose approach in fighting the epidemic
In the midst of deteriorating global epidemic situation, there has recently been a resurgence of locally infected cases with unknown sources, showing signs of the onset of a fourth-wave epidemic. The situation is particularly worrying as Hong Kong has entered the winter flu season. As such, members of the public should stay vigilant, maintain social distancing, go out less and wear a mask as mandatorily required.
To curb the epidemic, it is necessary for the Government to adopt the infection control strategy of “preventing the importation of cases and the spreading of the virus in the community”. In view of the deteriorating epidemic situation, the Government announced a series of anti-epidemic measures yesterday, which included the tightening of certain social distancing measures, enhanced quarantine arrangements for inbound travellers entering Hong Kong (including exempted persons), and timely measures to address the higher risk associated with hotel staycations. Moreover, a legal framework has been put in place under which the Government may require certain categories of persons to undergo virus testing while specified registered medical practitioners may require the same from patients with COVID-19 symptoms, so as to achieve “early identification, early isolation and early treatment”1.
Community testing centres commencing service today
In response to market demand for self-paid testing services, four community testing centres formally commence service today (November 15) to provide self-paid testing services for the public at a more affordable price ($240 per testing) to serve the general community or private purposes such as certification for travelling or work. The testing centres also enable the Government to meet urgent or unexpected testing demand, e.g. in case of community infections or outbreak, in a more efficient and flexible manner. Manpower can hence be deployed more efficiently and effectively to conduct free testing for the sake of safeguarding public health.
“LeaveHomeSafe” mobile app comes in handy
The “LeaveHomeSafe” mobile app will be available for download starting tomorrow (November 16). Developed under the co-ordination of the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO), this app comes in handy for the public to keep a record of their whereabouts, thereby enhancing the effectiveness of case tracing by the Centre for Health Protection.
Thanks to the untiring efforts of the OGCIO colleagues in promoting the scheme to various sectors and businesses2, over 6 000 public and private venues will join hands in tapping technology to fight the epidemic by displaying the “LeaveHomeSafe” QR code for public use.
I noticed that there were several confirmed cases involving taxi drivers a few days ago. With the timely launch of the “LeaveHomeSafe” app, taxi passengers can use the app to scan or input the registration mark shown inside the taxi. When there are cases involving taxis in the future, passengers of the taxis concerned will receive notification and health advice through the app. With positive support from the taxi industry, the app can now be used directly in 18 000 taxis across the territory, saving the need to register individual taxis and distribute QR codes, and greatly expediting its use in the community.
All Hong Kong citizens are encouraged to use this handy tool to develop the habit of keeping a record of their whereabouts for protecting themselves and others, thereby devoting their efforts to fighting the epidemic.