Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union
From the very beginning, history of the reunification, facts about Basic Law, principles of “One Country Two Systems”, and the relationship between the Central Authorities and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) have all been included in the primary and secondary school curriculum of many subjects, namely General Studies, Chinese History, Life and Society, Liberal Studies and so on. Therefore, there is no way of saying that students have no opportunity to learn them, or schools can avoid these topics.
We also believe that when teaching Basic Law and “One Country Two Systems” , teachers should be able to freely select appropriate teaching materials, with academic and professional independence. Definitely the provisions of Basic Law, the examples of the practice and the realization of “One Country Two Systems” would be the most ideal first-hand materials for teaching. The White Paper on “The Practice of the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ Policy in the HKSAR”, issued by the State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China, is absolutely one of the essential references and teaching materials for understanding “One Country Two Systems”. However, we cannot agree on what the pro-Beijing people suggested that the schools should teach Basic Law and “One Country Two Systems” according to the White Paper. The reasons are as follows:
Many contents of the White Paper have violated the provisions of Basic Law, as queried by members of local legal and academic sectors, including:
a)“… …The Chief Executive reports his/her work to the central government on an annual basis, on the implementation of the Basic Law and other items for which he/she is accountable to the central government; and the state leaders give guidance to The Chief Executive on major matters related to the implementation of the Basic Law … …” (point 1.2, Chapter 2) This content has not been written in the Basic Law, and what is expressly provided that “the state leaders give guidance to the Chief Executive” in the White Paper , would likely undermine the power of the Chief Executive or the high degree of self-autonomy.
With reference to the third point of chapter 5, it is stated that the judges of the courts at different levels and other judicial personnel are those who administrate Hong Kong, and have the responsibility of correctly understanding and implementing the Basic Law, of safeguarding the country’s sovereignty, security and development interests, and of ensuring the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong. And it is added that loving the country is the basic political requirement for Hong Kong’s administrators. This statement is detrimental to the political neutrality and judicial independence of the judicial personnel, which are their core values, and this will at last trigger off the wide-ranging disputes in the community.
We found that there is so much inaccurate information in the White Paper, for instance, “The government of the HKSAR would be composed of local inhabitants.”; “The principal officials would be selected by election or through consultations held locally and be appointed by the Central People’s Government.”; the wrong calculation of the annual growth of GDP per capita during the previous years; “In accordance with the assigned number of seats and the selection method specified by the National People’s Congress (NPC), the Chinese citizens among the HKSAR residents elect deputies of the region to the NPC to participate in the work of China’s supreme organ of state power.” All these would likely mislead people into believing that all Hong Kong people can have rights to vote for the members of NPC. In view of so much inaccurate information, its reliability is consequently in doubt.
With reference to article 158 of the Basic Law, the power of interpretation of this Law shall be vested in the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. We wonder if it is legitimate for the State Council, as a supreme national administrative organ, to interpret Basic Law, which would finally lead to many controversies in HK society.
The White Paper issued so imprudently before 622 referendum, which strives to undermine the high degree of self-autonomy and to over-emphasize the importance of “One Country Two Systems”, serves as a propaganda to suppress the struggle for a more open and democratic government. However, we are so surprised if the message delivered by this propaganda is legally based on the provisions of Basic Law and Joint Declaration of the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of the People’s Republic of China on the Question of Hong Kong.
The legal basis of “One Country Two Systems” is Basic Law, which is so readable as a constitutional document. Therefore, if students can directly read Basic Law, they can thoroughly understand “One Country Two Systems”, and the real education of the rule of law will then come true.
Based on the above analysis, we believe that it is appropriate to regard the White Paper as one of the teaching references or materials for discussion. However, if teachers are obliged to teach “One Country Two Systems” and Basic Law according to the contents of the White Paper, teachers will be treated as a tool of propaganda and indoctrination. So saddening is that the students will be deprived of the opportunities of understanding thoroughly Basic Law and “One Country Two Systems”, and thinking critically on the effective practice in Hong Kong.