Lok Wai Kin is a professor in the Faculty of Law (FLL) of the University of Macau (UM). For over three decades, he has been involved in the drafting, teaching, and study of the Basic Laws of Hong Kong and Macao. Since his first visit to Macao in 1988, the city and the university have undergone tremendous changes. Formerly a young researcher with little knowledge of Macao, he has now become a reputable scholar at UM. In recent years, Prof Lok has invested considerable effort in promoting the understanding of the Basic Law among residents and students by using real-life examples that everyone can relate to.

Prof Lok Wai Kin

Deeply Involved in the Drafting of Two Basic Laws

In 1975, the young Lok was assigned to Chongming Island in Shanghai, where he did hard labour in the countryside for three years. In 1977, he took China’s national college entrance examination, which was restored after a decade-long hiatus. That exam changed Lok’s fate. In the following year, he began studying political science at the East China Normal University. Upon graduation, he went on to pursue a master’s degree at the East China University of Political Science and Law as one of the institution’s first postgraduate students. In 1985, he moved to Beijing to study a PhD programme in law at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, under the guidance of the eminent constitutionalist Wang Shuwen.

The beginning of Lok’s doctoral study coincided with Prof Wang’s appointment to the Drafting Committee for the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR). On Prof Wang’s recommendation, Lok became a staff member of the committee’s secretariat, which kicked off his decades-long involvement in the Basic Laws. ‘Prof Wang said that the Basic Law was a completely new thing and would make an ideal topic for my doctoral research. To do that, there would be no better way than participating in the drafting of the Basic Law along with my study,’ he says.

Left: In 1988, Prof Lok Wai Kin participates in the first plenary session of the Drafting Committee for the Basic Law of the Macao SAR at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
Right: In 1988, Prof Lok Wai Kin (front) and mainland members of the Drafting Committee for the Basic Law of the Macao SAR arrive in the city via the Border Gate for the first time.

In 1988, Lok obtained his PhD, joined the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, and at the same time was appointed to the Secretariat of the Drafting Committee for the Basic Law of the Macao SAR. In the same year, he made his first field trip to Macao. ‘I found Macao so beautiful and had a very good first impression of the city,’ he says. ‘There were many pedicabs on the streets, and I saw people fishing along the Bom Parto Bay (Sai Van). Back then, Macao was quite a romantic small town.’

As a member of the drafting committee secretariat, Lok became acquainted with some academics of the University of East Asia (UEA), the predecessor of UM, including its founding rector Prof Hsueh Shou Sheng, who was a vice chairman of the committee. He also met Wong Hong Keong, a senior researcher at the UM Centre of Macau Studies. ‘Mr Wong later also made great contributions as a member of the Preparatory Committee for the Macao SAR. So I think UM members have played an instrumental role in the drafting and implementation of the Basic Law,’ says Prof Lok.

In 1995, the Chinese government assigned Prof Lok to Macao as one of its representatives to the Sino-Portuguese Joint Liaison Group. In 1998, he was further appointed as a member of the Preparatory Committee for the Macao SAR and its office director. Over the past decade since he began working on the Basic Law, Prof Lok has witnessed the transformation of the city at the handover ceremony in December 1999, from a territory under Portuguese rule to a Chinese SAR following the principles of ‘One Country, Two Systems’ and ‘Macao People Governing Macao’.

In 1989, Prof Lok Wai Kin (3rd from left, back row) and members of the Cultural and Social Affairs Task Force of the Drafting Committee for the Basic Law of the Macao SAR visit UM and pose for a group photo at the Nine Dragon Wall on the old Taipa campus.

Two Decades of Academic Life

In 2001, Prof Lok joined the FLL. He says that every Macao resident should understand and uphold the two constitutional documents which together form the SAR’s constitutional basis. Over the past two decades, he has not only taught and published extensively, but has also promoted the Constitution and the Basic Law by teaching them to residents from all walks of life, in collaboration with government departments, social organisations, and schools. His goal is to enhance public understanding of the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle.

In 2002, Prof Lok Wai Kin (1st from right, front row) attends the Faculty of Lawʼs graduation ceremony for judicial officers from mainland China who have completed an introductory course of Macao law.

In 2018, UM established its Centre for Constitutional Law and Basic Law Studies under the FLL and appointed Prof Lok as its director. Since then, members of the centre have taught a compulsory general education course on the Constitution and the Basic Law to over 2,000 students. Moreover, the centre helps other higher education institutions offer similar courses. For the general public, the centre has been working with various organisations, including the Macao Basic Law Promotion Association, to launch short courses. At the invitation of government departments, Prof Lok and his colleagues also train primary and secondary school teachers as well as other residents who can promote greater understanding of the Constitution and the Basic Law among the general public. According to Prof Lok, scholars at his centre also present their research at top conferences or publish in influential academic publications such as Hong Kong and Macao Journal.

Teaching Law in Everyday Life

On the day before his interview with My UM, Prof Lok gave lectures at two high schools. Just before the interview, he was emailing another school about a national education talk scheduled a few days later. Prof Lok says, ‘Since 2018, in collaboration with the government, we have visited over 70 local primary and secondary schools to promote the Constitution and the Basic Law, and to help teachers and students understand how these documents affect our daily lives.’

Prof Lok takes the National Peopleʼs Congress (NPC) as an example. Under the Constitution, the NPC is the highest organ of state power. However, primary and secondary school students in Macao may not be fully aware of the NPC’s role, and that’s why examples from everyday life may help. ‘In the past, salt tides plagued Pearl River Delta watercourses, making drinking water in Macao unbearably salty. To resolve this problem, the Macao deputies to the NPC and Macao members of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference turned to the central government for help. Today, new reservoirs have been built in mainland China to supply extra drinking water to Macao during salt tide periods. Examples like this allows students to learn about the basic system and structure of our state, as well as their relationship to Macao people’s everyday life.’

Prof Lok Wai Kin has given lectures in many local primary and secondary schools

An Innovative Implementation of ʻOne Country, Two Systemsʼ

Having worked at UM for 20 years, Prof Lok considers the university’s relocation in 2013 to the new campus on Hengqin Island a dramatic change, which illustrates the advantages of the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ model. The NPC Standing Committee’s decision to authorise the Macao SAR to exercise jurisdiction over the new campus is, in Prof Lok’s view, convincing proof of the central government’s support for higher education in Macao. It is also a creative implementation of the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle. He says: ‘Thanks to the relocation, which was such a big change for UM, today our students and staff can study, work, and live in a much better environment. I would say that UM is indeed a microcosm of the successful implementation of the “One Country, Two Systems” model’.