White Paper sets facts straight over Hong Kong democracy
HK needs to ‘bid farewell’ to West-defined democracy, chart own path
Published: Dec 20, 2021 10:54 PM
Legislative Council of Hong Kong (LegCo)  Photo: VCG

Legislative Council of Hong Kong (LegCo) Photo: VCG

Shortly after the Legislative Council (LegCo) election in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) concluded on Monday morning with all 90 seats elected, the Chinese central government released a white paper on Monday titled Hong Kong: Democratic Progress Under the Framework of One Country, Two Systems, which stresses that there is no question that the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Chinese government designed, created, safeguarded and pushed forward Hong Kong's democratic system.

The release of the 17,079-word paper came at an important moment as the electoral reform unveiled a new page for local governance, paving the way for the development of democracy with Hong Kong characteristics after the city was reborn from unprecedented social turmoil. The document answered some fundamental questions - such as where did Hong Kong democracy come from, who is the real creator of this democracy and who sabotaged it. 

It was also the latest document on democracy issued by the Chinese government after it published a white paper on China's whole-process people's democracy on December 4 and another report exposing the deficiencies and abuse of democracy in the US a day later.

Chinese experts see the series of democracy-related documents as fully underscoring the true meaning of democracy, which should not be imposed or unilaterally defined by the West. They also showed the Chinese government's determination to seek the initiative in interpreting and defining what democracy is. They pointed out it's an urgent task for Hong Kong to rebuild its democratic path in line with its interests, bidding farewell to the dilapidated Western style of democracy. 

The white paper of six chapters laid out a series of factors that caused deficiencies in Hong Kong democracy, starting from the British colonial era to the increasingly complex situation under the "one country, two systems" due to internal and external factors. In recent years, so-called pan-democratic figures have carried out defiant acts of subversion and secession in collusion with external anti-China forces, perverting the meaning of democracy, and obstructing the gradual and orderly development of democracy. 

Core issue 

In its opening chapter, the white paper stated that under British colonial rule, "there was no genuine democracy" in Hong Kong, outlining how the British government repeatedly rejected all calls for democratic reform in Hong Kong decades ago. It also addressed why the British government rushed through electoral reform in Hong Kong in the very short remaining period of colonial rule driven by ulterior motives to undermine China's sovereignty and full governance and extend British political influence after Hong Kong's return to China.

Even today, some British politicians like Chris Patten, the last British Governor of Hong Kong, still point fingers at HKSAR's affairs by criticizing the Chinese government's policies on the city, reflecting a mentality of extending British influence over the Chinese territory, observers said.

Also, some claims made by foreign politicians who point fingers at Hong Kong can be refuted by history itself. For instance, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a tweet on Monday that "electoral overhaul and the national security law has wiped out opposition voices in Hong Kong and is an affront to liberty," urging the Chinese government to abide by the Sino-British Joint Declaration it agreed to. 

There's no mention of universal suffrage or democracy in the joint declaration, said the white paper, noting that allegations of China violating the declaration are baseless, and it was the British government that unilaterally altered its policy toward China after the document was signed. 

"The white paper traced back the essence of HKSAR's democracy by clarifying who granted Hong Kong people democratic rights. The British government had never wanted to grant Hong Kong people democracy, and real democracy was only developed after 1997," Zhi Zhenfeng, a legal expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times.

"The reality shows that the central government is the designer, creator and advancer of the Hong Kong's democracy, and also its guardian when it was sabotaged," he said. 

Back on track 

Hong Kong has been going through a bumpy road in developing its democracy, and past experiences have also shown that many problems have emerged from the previous system. Although the central government is committed to developing democracy in Hong Kong with gradual steps such as approving the amendment of election methods for the Chief Executive and the LegCo, setting a timetable for universal suffrage, and drawing up a roadmap for electing the Chief Executive by universal suffrage, anti-China agitators are undermining and disrupting democracy in Hong Kong, according to the white paper. 

China's struggle with antagonistic forces concerning the HKSAR is not about  wanting or how to develop democracy, but about fighting secessionism, subversion and sabotage, which will help develop democracy in line with "one country, two systems," the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council said in a statement issued after the white paper was published.

The anti-China forces destabilizing Hong Kong and their overseas supporters are the main culprits in obstructing and undermining the democratic development of Hong Kong, the office said. 

Those anti-China forces include some major pan-democratic figures who were charged with subversion earlier this year, and others like infamous secessionists Nathan Law Kwun Chung and Ted Hui Chi-fung, who have absconded overseas and are wanted as suspects by the police. 

However, the absence of those figures have become a major argument used by Western media outlets such as Reuters and the New York Times in their coverage of the LegCo election by questioning the legitimacy of the election, as there were very few candidates from the pan-democracy camp, and only one non pro-establishment candidate was elected as a lawmaker for the new LegCo. 

"This is a typical trap set by the Western standards for Hong Kong, as we can't use the participation of the non pro-establishment candidates in the election as the only barometer to evaluate whether the system is democratic or not," Tang Fei, vice-chairman of Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers who was also elected as the LegCo lawmaker for the first time, told the Global Times. 

Instead, anti-China forces in Western countries often use anti-China or anti-CPC stance as the only gauge of evaluating democracy, which is narrow-minded, he said, noting that some Hong Kong people have been "brainwashed" by such wrong ideas. 

"Would the US allow a lawmaker who is not patriotic and tries to defy the constitution to run for the House? I don't think so," Tang said. 

But in Hong Kong, those radical pan-democratic figures and anti-China rioters rejected the Constitutional order and endangered national security, and openly challenge the HKSAR order, and the social turmoil in 2019 was a painful lesson, according to the white paper. 

Reflecting on the lesson, the central authorities issued a number of policies to bring the development of democracy in Hong Kong back on track, including the implementation of the national security law for Hong Kong, oath-taking rules for Hong Kong public servants and improvement of the electoral system under the principle of the city being governed only by patriots.

"The development of democracy in Hong Kong should be advanced through improving the quality of democratic practice instead of turning it into a bridgehead for engaging in anti-China rioting," Zhi said.

At the time of the election, some countries like the US and the UK held the so-called democracy summit and issued a six-month report on Hong Kong to support anti-China rioters in an attempt to continue disturbing Hong Kong and defying China's model of democracy. 

In the eyes of some experts, the new electoral system in Hong Kong is another vivid example of how the city will not blindly follow the Western model of democracy, but adopt a system that is in line with its historical background and current situation, Lau Siu-kai, Vice President of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, told the Global Times.

"Especially as the city is an inseparable part of China, and must carry the 'one country, two systems', the local political system must play a positive role for its long-term political, economic, and social livelihood development," he said.  

The expert also noted that while it is predictable that the US refuses to recognize Hong Kong's political system as "Western style democracy", the city's democratic development will be in line with the fundamental interests of the Hong Kong people, and will achieve surprising results beyond the imagination of Americans. 

"They will further understand that Western democracy does not represent common values," Lau said.