Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (Basic Law), was passed by the National People’s Congress (NPC) in April 1990 and went into force seven years later on July 1, 1997—the day when China resumed exercise of sovereignty over the city. On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the implementation of the Basic Law, the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) on May 27 held a high-profile symposium commemorating the occasion, featuring speeches by seven guests, including NPCSC Chairman Zhang Dejiang, who is also in charge of Hong Kong and Macau affairs as a member of the Communist Party’s powerful Politburo Standing Committee. It is not uncommon for the NPCSC to mark the anniversaries of laws it deems important, though yesterday was the first time that it provided transcript of the entire event. The speeches contained many salient points, and below we note the highlights of each in turn.
Update 2: Per a reader’s suggestion, this Blog has located English translations of both the Interpretation itself and the accompanying Explanations. Both were published by Xinhua. In addition, China Law Translate has posted full translations of the new Cybersecurity Law and Film Industry Promotion Law.
The 12th NPCSC has just concluded its 24th Session and passed the Cybersecurity Law, the Film Industry Promotion Law, and amendments to the Marine Environmental Protection Law and to the Private Education Promotion Law. We expect the full texts of these laws to be released later today (Beijing Time).
According to Xinhua, it has also unanimously approved an interpretation of Article 104 of the Hong Kong SAR Basic Law, which will also be released later.
Finally, also according to Xinhua, the NPCSC removed the heads of four State Council ministries: The Ministry of State Security, the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Supervision. Interestingly, it apparently appointed only three new ministers; the position of the Minister of Supervision remains vacant. The significance, if any, of the vacancy awaits to be seen.
The NPCSC is now holding a press conference on the bills approved, which you can follow at this link (in Chinese only).
This Blog will cover the press conference and the aforementioned bills in later posts.
Update 2: It has been confirmed that the Chairmen’s Council has put the interpretation which it itself proposed on the agenda of the 24th Session. Article 104 of the Basic Law will be interpreted.
Update 1: On Thursday, no news regarding the rumored Basic Law interpretation came out of the NPCSC, which seemed to have followed its usual schedule. However, it just came to your author’s attention that the agenda for this Session contains an item named “Others (其他)”—an apparent placeholder that hasn’t appeared in the agenda of any other 12th NPCSC session. According to the daily schedule, this mysterious item is set to be heard at the plenary meeting on Saturday morning, along with several other reports. We’ll know what “Others” stand for by Saturday night at the latest.
It seems that the 24th Session has just gotten more exciting. Multiple news reports (SCMP and HKPS) that surfaced late Tuesday night cited sources claiming that the NPCSC would on Thursday consider a proposed interpretation of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (Basic Law), in connection with the recent controversial oaths of office taken by two members-elect of Hong Kong’s legislature. If the reports prove to be true, this will then be the NPCSC’s fifth interpretation of the city’s mini-constitution. The following is a primer on this (unconfirmed) interpretation in Q&A format.