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Saturday, May 20, 2017, 17:49
Public understanding of Basic Law falls short
By Willa Wu in Hong Kong
Saturday, May 20, 2017, 17:49 By Willa Wu in Hong Kong

Visitors view the sculpture Book of Life — the largest piece of artwork on display at the “Discover the Basic Law” exhibition held at PMQ in Central in 2015.  (Provided to china daily)

Hong Kong celebrates the 27th anniversary of the Basic Law promulgation this year but there is still much to be desired when it comes to promotion of public understanding about the Basic Law, scholars and promotion insiders note. 

David Wong Yau-kar, chairman of the Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority and a member of the government’s Basic Law Promotion Steering Committee, said most of the current promotion work comprised educating the public about detailed contents of the law. He argued that the essence of Basic Law promotion lay in explaining its spirit. 

The spirit Wong referred to is the “One Country, Two Systems” principle.

The white paper on “The Practice of the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ Policy in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region”, which was issued in 2014 by the State Council, says “One Country, Two Systems” is a basic State policy the central government has adopted to realize the peaceful reunification of the country.

Under the principle, the Basic Law — drafted by a committee of 59 Hong Kong and mainland representatives — was promulgated in April 1990 and put into effect on July 1, 1997. 

In May last year Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, who conducted his inspection tour of the city, said the “One Country, Two Systems” principle guaranteed “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong” and “a high degree of autonomy”.

Wong, who is mainly in charge of promoting the Basic Law in the business sector, as well as among teachers and students, noted that the government should familiarize the public with what the principle implies.

“The principle is about mutual respect,” he said. “Hong Kong keeps its previous capitalist system and way of life. It also needs to shoulder responsibility in defending national sovereignty, security and development interests, as the city is an inalienable part.”

“The government has invested enough money and resources into promoting the law. But promotion is not about how many activities should be organized,” Wong added.

Wong’s view is echoed by Professor Ho Kin-chung from the Open University of Hong Kong. Dean of the School of Science and Technology, Ho was recently awarded first prize by local magazine Bauhinia. This was for his essay about reviewing Hong Kong’s Basic Law promotion in the past 20 years. 

In his essay, Ho said Basic Law promotion had consumed great investment but achieved little.

Data from the Basic Law Promotion Steering Committee showed that last year Hong Kong organized 112 activities related to Basic Law promotion. Nearly half of these were exhibitions, entertainment and leisure activities, which Ho called “passive education” — they merely gave recipients hard facts.

“The Basic Law promotion should be conducted along with deepening history and geography education among young people,” Ho said.

“History education allows youth to comprehend the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle under context, hence understanding the principle’s necessity and merits. While geography education will give a full picture of Hong Kong and its relation with mainland cities,” Ho said.

Both Wong and Ho admitted there are several hindrances in Basic Law promotion among the younger generation. One difficulty is their negative or even inaccurate impressions of the mainland.

“Teaching Basic Law is not like teaching other subjects which students know nothing at all about before classes. With social media, students receive information about the Basic Law, both positive and negative. So before conducting any education, we need to first reset the students’ incorrect and negative knowledge of it. And that takes time,” Wong said.

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