‘One country, two systems’ evolves in HK

By Cong Peiying Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/29 18:43:39

July 1 marks the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's return from British rule and the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), as well as the implementation of "one country, two systems" in the HKSAR. However, some in the Western world and Hong Kong have cast doubt on the success of the "one country, two systems" approach, and think the central government is tightening control over Hong Kong. The facts tell a different story.

Hong Kong ought to be a democratic and diverse community. However, social divides and polarization in the region have run rampant in recent years because Hongkongers lack confidence in the region's development prospects and blame social problems on Beijing and the mainland. In fact, many factors have led to a decline in the Hong Kong economy, such as the sluggish global market after the 2008 financial crisis and Hong Kong's failure to seize opportunities to promote industrial upgrades and transformation.

The booming economy in the mainland impacted Hong Kong's competitive edge and triggered a psychological imbalance among people in the HKSAR, making them attribute social woes to the governance incapability of their government. The Occupy Central protest in 2014 exacerbated Hong Kong people's dismay over the central and regional governments. Hong Kong people should adjust their traditional mind-set in line with the changing times to address emerging economic and social ailments, rather than unwisely denounce the Beijing and Hong Kong governments.

The central government and the mainland have made consistent efforts to support Hong Kong in the past 20 years. Backed by the Chinese government, some Hong Kong compatriots have become the leaders of international organizations. For example, former director of health of Hong Kong Dr. Margaret Chan was elected director-general of the World Health Organization in 2006. The Director of the Hong Kong Observatory Shun Chi-ming was elected president of the Commission for Aeronautical Meteorology of the World Meteorological Organization in 2010.

In addition, the central government has beefed up efforts to cement Hong Kong as a world financial center. Data from Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing showed that mainland enterprises listed on the Hong Kong market rose from 101 in 1997 to 1,002 by the end of 2016, accounting for 63 percent of the total stock market value. Banks in Hong Kong handled renminbi trade settlement totaling 4.5 trillion yuan ($663 billion) in 2016, taking up over 80 percent of the total cross-border renminbi trade settlement. The Chinese government accords priority to Hong Kong's future positioning and growth, and hopes the HKSAR will continue to bridge countries along the Belt and Road initiative.

Anti-globalization and populism are spreading around the world, precipitating the emergence of extreme localists among Hongkongers. At present, Hong Kong is mired in the tendency of politicization of all issues and a rise of partisanship, which penetrates into economic and social issues, as well as people's livelihood. Some elites' and ordinary people's discontent over political reform and the follow-up Occupy Central movement have seriously affected the lawful governance of the HKSAR government. Policies to boost socio-economic growth and people's well-being hammered out by the regional government are met with massive skepticism and criticism and end up ineffective.

Local extremists and opposition cliques rack their brains to ignite hostility toward the central government among Hong Kong people. But they are clear that confrontation with Beijing or even grabbing jurisdiction over Hong Kong from the Chinese government will only put the region with a high degree of autonomy at risk.

The current situation indicates the most feasible and pragmatic solution to the social divide on Hong Kong soil is to develop the local economy and improve people's livelihood. Meanwhile, the gradual progression of political reform should be integrated with Hong Kong's core values like inclusiveness, equality and rule of law. This requires joint efforts from both the central and HKSAR governments on multiple issues at multiple levels, in a bid to reduce disagreements and reach a consensus. 

The unprecedented "one country, two systems" is inevitably encountering enormous challenges. But the implementation of the principle will be enhanced as both the mainland and Hong Kong strive to explore an effective way of pushing forward the cause of "one country, two systems" and draw lessons from it in the era of change.

In his speech at a celebration marking the 15th anniversary of Macao's return to the motherland in 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping said no matter what difficulties or challenges we may encounter, nothing could shake our confidence and resolve to uphold the principle and advance the practice of "one country, two systems." Former HKSAR chief executive Leung Chun-ying underscored in his interview that the practice of "one country, two systems" in Hong Kong is successful. The implementation of "one country, two systems" in Hong Kong is still worth expecting in the future.

The author is deputy secretary general of the Institute for Strategic Studies on "One Belt, One Road" and a PhD candidate in international relations. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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