Principle of 'one country, two systems' protects State sovereignty, city's stability
Returning to the rule of law is the only way to solve the current problem in Hong Kong, a leading legislator and legal scholar on the mainland said on Thursday as Hong Kong's silent majority raised their voices against violence.
The rule of law is the basic consensus and core value of Hong Kong society, but the recent series of violent incidents has seriously damaged the rule of law and hurt the feelings of people around the country, said Han Dayuan, a member of Hong Kong Basic Law Committee under the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, the country's top legislature.
Illegal gatherings and acts of violence have continued in Hong Kong, including the assaults on two mainland residents, one of them a reporter, by radicals at Hong Kong International Airport on Tuesday. A total of 748 people have been arrested in violent protests since June 9, the Hong Kong police said on Thursday.
"The airport violence was an open challenge to the rule of law and seriously damaged Hong Kong as a society under the rule of law," said Han, also a professor at the Law School of Renmin University of China and director of the university's law institute on the "one country, two systems" principle.
"Faced with such serious violence and a split society, the only way to solve the current problem is for the entire society to get back on the track of the rule of law," he said. "I believe this is the basic consensus of the great majority of Hong Kong people."
Han emphasized that the primary aim of the principle of "one country, two systems" and the Basic Law is to safeguard State sovereignty, unity and territory integrity, as well as to maintain the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong.
"Any acts to challenge State sovereignty and unity affects the bottom line of the 'one country, two systems' principle," he said.
Laws provide legal backing for central authorities to take action if the HKSAR government cannot control the situation, Han said.
Article 14 of the Garrison Law states that the SAR government can request that the central government let the People's Liberation Army garrison in Hong Kong help maintain local public order.
The Constitution and the Basic Law also grant the NPC Standing Committee the power to judge and directly announce an emergency status for Hong Kong, under which the PLA Hong Kong garrison can perform its duties accordingly, Han said.
However, he emphasized that these are "preventive institutional or legal provisions" in laws, and activating such rules needs to meet at least two conditions－that social unrest has threatened national unity or security and that the SAR government is not capable of handling it.
Liu Xiaoming, China's ambassador to the United Kingdom, said on Thursday that should the situation in Hong Kong deteriorate further into unrest that the Hong Kong government cannot control, the central government will not sit on its hands and watch.
"We have enough solutions and enough power within the limits of the Basic Law to quell any unrest swiftly," he said during a news conference in London.
On Thursday, more Hong Kong people voiced objections to the escalation of violence at the city's airport.
Several local newspapers published a joint statement from Hong Kong residents on their front pages, urging the city to return to peace and order as soon as possible.
Following a call for strict law enforcement against rioters and any illegal act supporting unrest, the statement said that the government should not approve any march or assembly before the city returns to order. They appealed to parents and teachers not to allow their children and students to participate in unlawful activities.
Another group of 16 celebrities from the city's culture and arts industry, including actress Liza Wong Ming-Chuen, made a similar statement on Thursday. They slammed the unlawful attacks as "going far beyond the bottom line of a civilized society".
On Wednesday, NPC deputies and national political advisers from Hong Kong condemned the violent acts. All deputies to the NPC from Hong Kong said in a statement that the violent acts have seriously undermined the core value of the rule of law and undermined the order and tranquility of Hong Kong.
The violence was a heavy blow to the economy and people's livelihoods, and destroyed the good international image and reputation of Hong Kong's security and rule of law, it read.
Many Hong Kong members of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the country's political advisers, called for Hong Kong law enforcement to investigate and punish rioters in accordance with the law.
Thirteen Hong Kong-based academicians from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the China Engineering Academy on Wednesday also warned that extremely violent acts will destroy Hong Kong's future.
Shadow Li, Kathy Zhang in Hong Kong, and Han Baoyi in London contributed to this story.