11 May 2016
The controversial anti-subversion law that has to be enacted under Article 23 of the Basic Law should be put back on the government agenda within two years, said Basic Law Committee member Maria Tam Wai-chu.
Speaking at a forum organized by the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong yesterday, Tam said the chief executive and Legislative Council elections will be over by then, and the matter can be discussed in a calm and focused manner.
In 2003, the government tried to push through legislation for Article 23 but the matter was dropped after nearly half a million people took to the streets on July 1 that year. The massive rally was followed by the resignations of financial secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung and security chief Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee.
Tam also said that the one country, two systems principle, which guarantees no change in Hong Kong's way of life and economic system for 50 years, should continue beyond 2047. But she did not say if this was Beijing's intention.
Ronny Tong Ka-wah, former Civic Party lawmaker and founder of think tank Path of Democracy, said many urgent problems need to be addressed, such as land and property contracts that will come to an end on June 30, 2047.
"Without confirming the ownership of land after 2047, people will not come to Hong Kong to do business and will not make investments here," Tong said.
But another member, University of Hong Kong law professor Albert Chen Hung-yee, said that a "2047 problem" does not exist.
"Once a law is passed and if it does not carry an expiry date, it will remain unchanged until amendments are made or if it is abolished," Chen said.
He said Beijing has never said that Hong Kong's way of life and privileges will not continue when the 50-year guarantee has passed.
"It is too early to discuss what happens after 2047. Things change quickly and there can be no meaningful discussion until, perhaps, 10 years before that date," Chen said at the DAB forum.
He also said independence for Hong Kong is not an option after 2047 as the sovereignty of the SAR was settled in the Sino-British Joint Declaration signed in 1984.