“One country, two systems” would not change after 50 years

The common law is the cornerstone of Hong Kong’s status as an international financial centre and an international legal and dispute resolution hub, supporting the capitalist system under the “one country, two systems”. Today, various Hong Kong members of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) quoted the Vice Chairman of the National Committee of the CPPCC and the Director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, Mr Xia Baolong, as saying that the “one country, two systems” remains unchanged for 50 years and, after that, it would not be necessary to change, reaffirming its steadfast and successful implementation. He also stressed that the common law and the legal system in Hong Kong would also remain unchanged.

Mr Xia has reiterated the unequivocal support and stern determination repeatedly expressed by President Xi Jinping and various leaders of the Central People’s Government over the implementation of “one country, two systems”. His remarks were also justified and informed. First of all, Article 5 of the Basic Law guarantees that Hong Kong shall retain the capitalist system and way of life for 50 years. It does not mean that this will cease thereafter. Secondly, as a matter of common sense, if “one country, two systems” functions effectively and serves our country and Hong Kong well, there is no reason for it to change. Thirdly, as can be seen in the discussions surrounding the formulation and implementation of “one country, two systems”, and as stated by Mr Deng Xiaoping, 50 years was just “a figure of speech”, and “for the first 50 years it cannot be changed, and after that, it would not be necessary to change”.

Under the “one country, two systems”, Hong Kong’s capitalist system, supported by the common law, has been working smoothly. The common law also provides a solid foundation for implementing one of the fundamental purposes of the Basic Law - to maintain the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong. One of the major advantages of the common law is that it is largely doctrinal but capable of adapting to societal values and changing circumstances, thus providing certainty and predictability and yet also flexible to deal with business changing needs by creating a favourable environment. Hong Kong is the only jurisdiction in the world that has a truly bilingual common law system, English and Chinese, and is the only common law jurisdiction in our country. It is in the best interest to leverage on the advantages of the common law to contribute to the development of Hong Kong and our nation.

The original aspiration of the “one country, two systems”, as set out in the preamble of the Basic Law, is upholding national unity and territorial integrity, and maintaining the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong. If we are able to uphold, honour and respect the fundamental precondition of “one country”, the two systems underpinned by the common law would continue, facilitating our integration into the national development.

To stabilise the pandemic is the overriding mission at present, we should remain vigilant in adopting the control measures and get vaccinated as soon as possible. With our concerted efforts, the pandemic would be brought under control. Owing to the current situation, the Basic Law Legal Summit “Stability to Prosperity” has now been postponed to the end of May. I look forward to welcoming all the speakers and guests to attend in person, jointly celebrating the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the Motherland.

March 9, 2022