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巴基斯坦媒体全文刊登《英国无权质疑香港国安法》一文
2020-07-14

  7月14日,巴基斯坦《金融日报》整版刊登由中国政法大学霍政欣教授撰写的题为《英国无权质疑香港国安法》的评论文章。

  文章强调,应根据《维也纳条约法公约》(以下简称“《公约》”)对香港国安法这一问题进行分析,《中华人民共和国政府和大不列颠及北爱尔兰联合王国政府关于香港问题的联合声明》(以下简称“《联合声明》”)符合《公约》中关于“条约”的定义。《联合声明》是中英两国间的双边条约,双方的权利和义务应依据《公约》中关于条约解释的条款进行审视。根据《公约》第二十六条和第三十一条,条约内容具有约束力,必须以善意并根据其目的和宗旨来解释和执行。《联合声明》已在序言中阐明宗旨:“通过协商妥善地解决历史上遗留下来的香港问题”,因此,其总体目标是确保香港、九龙和新界的主权在1997年从英国顺利移交给中国,这对于理解条约双方的权利和义务至关重要。

  文章指出,《联合声明》第一条和第二条分别规定了中国政府的主要权利和英国政府的主要义务,共同构成了文书的关键条款;第三条是中国政府关于对香港的基本政策声明,附件一对政策进行了详细阐述;第四至六条及附件二、三规定了过渡时期的安排;第七条和第八条涉及《联合声明》的实施与生效。其中,第三条因其由中国政府单方面、独立履行而不同于第一、二条,又因其系单方面声明而非双方共同协议而不同于第四至八条,其在内容和性质上都是独特的。通过香港地区顺利移交、全国人大通过香港特区基本法、在过渡时期维持香港的繁荣稳定、中英联合联络小组的成立和到期解散、土地委员会的成立和到期解散、《联合声明》的签署和生效,中英双方已圆满履行了《联合声明》各条款所规定的权利和义务。

  文章认为,《联合声明》是一项中英两国间的双边条约,且其各项要求均已被充分满足,英国不再对香港拥有主权、管辖权或所谓“监督权”。英国有权要求中国尊重《联合声明》,但这一权利并非绝对,而是受到国际法的限制。首先,根据《公约》,英国应基于善意行使上述权力而非任意解读,其关于“香港国安法”违背《联合声明》的指控毫无根据。再者,英国不应违背《联合国宪章》第二条第四款所规定的不干涉他国内政原则,英国不应单方面解释《联合声明》,反之亦然。在涉及中国内政的问题上,英国无权以直接或间接形式干预。国家安全本质上是主权国家内政的一部分,英国无权干涉中国颁布香港国安法的决定。

  一些西方国家主张特区基本法是《联合声明》的产物,此种说法毫无根据,《中华人民共和国宪法》(以下简称“《宪法》”)才是特区基本法的法律基础。首先,《宪法》明文规定其“是国家的根本法,具有最高的法律效力”以及“国家在必要时得设立特别行政区。在特别行政区内实行的制度按照具体情况由全国人民代表大会以法律规定。”第二,《联合声明》附件一中阐明了《宪法》是特区基本法的法律基础。第三,香港基本法在序言中写明了“根据中华人民共和国宪法,全国人民代表大会特制定中华人民共和国香港特别行政区基本法”。因此,《联合声明》作为一项国际条约,不是,也不可能成为香港基本法的法律基础。

  文章最后得出结论,在按照国际法对《联合声明》进行系统性的审视后,可以肯定地说,《联合声明》与香港国家安全立法无关。只要法律是根据《宪法》制定并颁布的,其合法性就不不容置疑。包括英国在内的其他国家无权根据《联合声明》或任何其他国际条约质疑中国在香港颁布国家安全法的决定。

  原文如下:

  UK cannot question HK security law

  By Huo Zhengxin

  The Law of the People's Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region was passed unanimously at the 20th session of the Standing Committee of the 13th National People's Congress, China's top legislature, on June 30. This prompted some Western countries to allege the promulgation of the national security law in the SAR "lies in direct conflict with its international obligations under the principles of the legally-binding, UN-registered Sino-British Joint Declaration".

  But the allegation doesn't hold water on five counts.

  The issue should be analyzed in terms of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, which was concluded in 1969 and came into force in 1980, and the United Kingdom and China both are state parties to it. The VCLT is reflective of customary international law, which governs the treaty relations between and among non-state parties. This is important because China did not accede to the VCLT until Sept 3, 1997. In other words, China was not a state party to the VCLT when the Sino-British Joint Declaration was concluded in 1984.

  Joint Declaration should be interpreted in good faith

  According to Article 2 of the VCLT, "treaty means an international agreement concluded between States in written form and governed by international law, whether embodied in a single instrument or in two or more related instruments and whatever its particular designation". As such, the Sino-British Joint Declaration meets the definition of "treaty", its formal title notwithstanding.

  First, the Sino-British Joint Declaration was concluded between China and the UK, both sovereign states, and the text of the instrument itself indicates it is an agreement between China and the UK. The Joint Declaration consists of eight paragraphs and three annexes, with each part having the same status. In particular, Paragraph 8 avers that "this Joint Declaration and its Annexes shall be equally binding". Also, the Joint Declaration is "governed by international law", as it stipulates the sovereign and administrative arrangement of Hong Kong during the transitional period. Hence, it is safe to conclude that the Sino-British Joint Declaration is a bilateral treaty between China and the UK.

  The Chinese government has acknowledged the legal status of the Joint Declaration as a legally binding treaty. And the instrument, including the Sino-British Joint Declaration per se and three annexes, was registered as a treaty at the United Nations by the Chinese and British governments on June 12, 1985.

  Since the Joint Declaration is a bilateral treaty, the rights and duties of the parties to it should be examined according to the provisions of the VCLT, especially those relating to treaty interpretation. Article 31 of the VCLT says a treaty must be interpreted in good faith and in the light of its object and purpose, and Article 26 enshrines the principle of pacta sunt servanda (agreements are binding and should be implemented in good faith).

  The purpose of the Joint Declaration is reflected in its preamble: to reach a "proper negotiated settlement of the question of Hong Kong, which is left over from the past". The UK acquired Hong Kong Island in 1842 and the Kowloon Peninsula in 1860, and leased the New Territories in 1898 for 99 years by unequal treaties with the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) when China was weak. Therefore, the overarching purpose of the Joint Declaration is to ensure a smooth transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong, Kowloon and the New Territories from the UK to China in 1997, and correct the historical injustice; and this is vital to understanding the rights and duties of the parties to the treaty.

  Key provisions of treaty need in-depth study

  Paragraph 1 of the Joint Declaration is a unilateral statement of the Chinese government, which says China would resume the exercise of its sovereignty over the Hong Kong area (including Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories, hereinafter referred to as Hong Kong) from July 1, 1997, which incorporates the principal right of the Chinese government under the instrument. And Paragraph 2 is a unilateral statement of the British Government, which says the UK would hand over Hong Kong to China on July 1, 1997, which, correspondingly, reflects the principal duty of the British government hereunder. The two paragraphs are complementary, and together constitute the key provisions of the instrument.

  Paragraph 3 is a unilateral statement of the Chinese government, which sets forth the basic policies of China regarding Hong Kong in 12 subparagraphs. The policies set out in this paragraph are elaborated in Annex I. Paragraphs 4 to 6 and Annexes II and III stipulate arrangements during the transitional period. And Paragraphs 7 and 8 are about the Joint Declaration's implementation and entry into force.

  However, Paragraph 3 is unique in terms of its content and nature. It is different from Paragraphs 1 and 2 because it is "self-governing" and its performance is not dependent on any other paragraph. To be more specific, though Paragraphs 1, 2 and 3 are unilateral statements of one party, Paragraphs 1 and 2 are dependent on each other, as they each cannot be fulfilled without the simultaneous performance of the other. But Paragraph 3 is distinct, as the Chinese government can fulfill it unilaterally and independently without the British government playing any role at all.

  Also, Paragraph 3 is different from Paragraphs 4 to 8, since the latter reflect the common agreements of both parties, rather than being unilateral statements by one party alone. So the following conclusions can be drawn:

  ・ After the smooth transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong, Kowloon and the New Territories from the UK to China on July 1, 1997, Paragraphs 1 and 2 had been fulfilled;

  ・ After the NPC promulgated the Basic Law of the SAR, which incorporates the basic policies of China regarding Hong Kong, China had fulfilled its duties under Paragraph 3 and Annex I;

  ・ By maintaining the economic prosperity and social stability of Hong Kong during the transitional period, both parties fulfilled their duties under Paragraph 4;

  ・ After the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group, set up to ensure smooth transition post-handover, was disbanded in 2000, both parties had completed their duties in line with Paragraph 5 and Annex II;

  ・ After the Land Commission, established immediately after the Joint Declaration came into force, was dissolved on June 30, 1997, the conditions of Paragraph 6 and Annex III had been fulfilled;

  ・ And after the Sino-British Joint Declaration was signed by the Chinese premier and British prime minister on behalf of their respective governments, came into force with the exchange of instruments of ratification on May 27, 1985, and registered by the Chinese and British governments at the UN on June 12, 1985, the two sides had fulfilled their duties pertaining to Paragraphs 7 and 8.

  UK, other states not entitled to supervise HK affairs

  Since the Joint Declaration is a bilateral treaty between China and the UK, after all its requirements were fulfilled, the UK has no sovereignty, jurisdiction or "right of supervision" over Hong Kong. This is not to deny the UK's entitlement to require China to respect the Joint Declaration. As the parties to the instrument, both China and Britain have the right to ask each other to honor it. But Britain's right to ask China to respect the Joint Declaration is not absolute; instead, it is subject to the limitation of international law.

  To begin with, when requiring China to respect the Joint Declaration, the UK should also abide by pacta sunt servanda. In other words, the UK should exercise such right based on good faith, not on arbitrary interpretation of the Joint Declaration. So the UK's allegation that China's decision to promulgate the national security law in the SAR conflicts with China's international obligations under the Joint Declaration is baseless.

  In fact, given that the "one country, two systems" principle is enshrined in the Basic Law of the SAR and the Chinese central government has reiterated that it respects the principle, and it will not be changed or undermined by the national security legislation, anybody with just basic knowledge of international law would conclude that the allegations are not based on facts.

  Also, the UK should not violate the principle of non-interference in another country's internal affairs when it requires China to respect the Joint Declaration. The principle of non-interference in another country's internal affairs is part of international law, and enshrined in the UN Charter (Article 2.4). The International Court of Justice was unambiguous when it ruled on the Nicaragua case that" (T) he principle of non-intervention involves the right of every sovereign State to conduct its affairs without outside interference; though examples of trespass against this principle are not infrequent, the Court considers that it is part and parcel of customary international law... (and) international law requires political integrity... to be respected". (ICJ Reports 1986, p.106, para. 202)

  One state cannot interfere in another state's internal affairs

  It went on to say that "the principle forbids all States or groups of States to intervene directly or indirectly in the internal or external affairs of other States" and that "a prohibited intervention must accordingly be one bearing on matters in which each State is permitted, by the principle of State sovereignty, to decide freely. One of these is the choice of a political, economic, social and cultural system, and the formulation of foreign policy."

  Therefore, under no circumstances should the UK impose its unilateral interpretation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration on China, and vice versa. On issues that fall within the domestic affairs of China, the UK has no right to interfere, directly or indirectly. And since national security in essence is part of a sovereign country's domestic affairs, the UK has no right to meddle in China's decision to promulgate the national security law in Hong Kong.

  Apart from the UK, some other Western countries, the United States in particular, have also been interfering in Hong Kong affairs. In 1992, the US passed the Hong Kong Policy Act, which was amended by the so-called Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019. Under the framework of these acts, the US State Department is required to submit an annual report on recent developments in Hong Kong to the Congress, allegedly to "support the high degree of autonomy and fundamental rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong, as enumerated by the Joint Declaration".

  The situation in Hong Kong has also been an important part of the annual reports of the US Congressional Executive Commission on China and the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission. The maxim pacta tertiis nec nocent nec prosunt (a treaty binds the parties and only the parties, it does not create obligations for a third state) is the fundamental principle of a treaty. Yet the US has been monitoring the implementation of the Joint Declaration despite not being a party to the treaty and therefore having no right to supervise the implementation of the Joint Declaration.

  As the prohibition of intervention "is a corollary of every state's right to sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence", according to L.F.L. Oppenheim who is considered the "father of international law" by many, the US is not allowed by international law to interfere in Hong Kong affairs. Consequently, the US is not entitled to interfere in China's decision to promulgate the national security law in Hong Kong on the grounds of the Joint Declaration or any other international treaties.

  China's Constitution is the legal basis for HK Basic Law

  Some Western countries argue that the Basic Law of the SAR is a product of the Joint Declaration. However, such argument is baseless, because the Constitution of the People's Republic of China is the legal basis for the Basic Law of the SAR.

  First of all, China's Constitution makes it clear that it is the legal basis for the establishment of special administrative regions and the formulation of the Basic Law of the SAR. The current Constitution of China was enacted by the NPC in 1982, two years before the conclusion of the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

  The preamble to the 1982 Constitution states "it is the fundamental law of the state and has supreme legal authority". Especially, Article 31 of the Constitution states: " (T) he state may establish special administrative regions when necessary. The systems to be instituted in special administrative regions shall be prescribed by law enacted by the National People's Congress in the light of specific conditions". As such, China's Constitution is the legal basis for the establishment of special administrative regions and the formulation of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong SAR as well as the Macao SAR.

  Second, the Joint Declaration itself proclaims that China's Constitution is the legal basis for the Basic Law of Hong Kong. As mentioned before, Paragraph 3 of the Joint Declaration is a unilateral statement of the Chinese government which sets forth the basic policies of China regarding Hong Kong.

  The central government has elaborated those basic policies in Annex I thus:" (T) he Constitution of the People's Republic of China stipulates in Article 31 that 'the state may establish special administrative regions when necessary. The systems to be instituted in special administrative regions shall be prescribed by laws enacted by the National People's Congress in light of the specific conditions.'... The National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China shall enact and promulgate a Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China in accordance with the Constitution of the People's Republic of China …"

  This establishes without any doubt that China's Constitution, not the Sino-British Joint Declaration, is the legal basis of the Basic Law of Hong Kong.

  And third, the Basic Law of Hong Kong affirms that China's Constitution is its legal basis, as the last paragraph of its preamble states: " (I) n accordance with the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, the National People's Congress hereby enacts the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, prescribing the systems to be practiced in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, in order to ensure the implementation of the basic policies of the People's Republic of China regarding Hong Kong".

  Therefore, the promulgation of the Basic Law of Hong Kong by the NPC reflects China's performance of its duties under the Joint Declaration. But the Joint Declaration, an international treaty, is not, and cannot be, the legal basis or source of the Basic Law of Hong Kong. China's Constitution, as the fundamental law of the State and having supreme legal authority, is the legal basis for the establishment of special administrative regions and the Basic Law of the Hong Kong.

  Conclusion

  After systematically examining the Sino-British Joint Declaration in terms of international law, one can safely conclude that the Joint Declaration is not relevant to national security legislation in Hong Kong. As long as the law is enacted and promulgated pursuant to China's Constitution and the Basic Law of Hong Kong, its legitimacy cannot be challenged. And foreign countries, including the UK and the US, have no right to question China's decision to promulgate the national security law in Hong Kong on grounds of the Joint Declaration or any other international treaty.

  The author is a professor of law at China University of Political Science and Law.

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