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Tuesday, March 29, 2022, 00:41
We can have faith in city’s ‘one country, two systems’
By Tony Kwok
Tuesday, March 29, 2022, 00:41 By Tony Kwok

This year marks the midpoint of the 50-year status quo guarantee for Hong Kong to be governed under the “one country, two systems” policy. Already we are hearing Western critics and local anti-China activists stirring up fears among Hong Kong people that the central government might discard this policy in 2047. This is reminiscent of the same tricks they used in the run-up to 1997 to create needless public anxiety about their future. In fact, ever since Hong Kong returned to China in 1997, they never stopped saying “‘one country, two systems’ is dead” even while Hong Kong continues to prosper!

In reality, there are ample reasons why we should remain confident of the continuation of “one country, two systems” beyond 2047.

First are the solemn reassurances given by Chinese leaders over the years. Then-State leader Deng Xiaoping had referred to the 50-year period as just “a figure of speech”. He explained that “for the first 50 years it cannot be changed, and after that, it would not be necessary to change”.

It is politically significant to note that 2047 is just two years before 2049 — the centenary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. It would be a timely tribute to the success of China’s innovative “one country, two systems” to see the policy retained beyond 2047

“One country, two systems” is in fact underpinned by Chinese constitutional law. Article 5 of the Basic Law states that Hong Kong shall retain the capitalist system and way of life for 50 years. The law does not say that this will cease thereafter.

During his visit to Hong Kong in 2017, President Xi Jinping expressed his hope for the “long-term successful practice” of “one country, two systems”.

Most importantly, on March 9 this year, during the annual two sessions meetings in Beijing, Xia Baolong, director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, reiterated that the central government’s determination to implement “one country, two systems” was “unswerving”, and emphasized that Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy could last far beyond 2047 under the policy, which means Hong Kong’s common law and judicial system would remain intact. The fact that Xia has chosen this most solemn occasion of the National People’s Congress to deliver the central government’s further commitment should put all doubts to rest. Hong Kong will be business as usual after 2047!

Also, it is politically significant to note that 2047 is just two years before 2049 — the centenary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. It would be a timely tribute to the success of China’s innovative “one country, two systems” to see the policy retained beyond 2047.

For the man on the street, the most persuasive demonstration of confidence comes from the business sector. Like hardheaded business leaders everywhere who voted with their feet, Hong Kong residents were elated at seeing HSBC shifting their business focus back to Hong Kong and the rest of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area while Henderson Property group just secured a prime Central waterfront land lot with a record high bid of HK$50.8 billion ($6.49 billion), all expecting their financial returns to materialize well beyond 2047. You simply have to believe people who put their money where their mouth is!

Regardless, we also must have a reality check. Our future autonomy largely depends on whether Hong Kong remains an asset or becomes a liability to China. If “one country, two systems” functions effectively and serves the country and Hong Kong well, there is no reason for it to change. The reverse can also be true! At the moment, Hong Kong is still one of the most competitive cities in China, according to some mainland survey results, but overtaken by Shanghai and Shenzhen in recent years. We have to admit that Hong Kong’s former glitter has faded a bit in recent years partly because of our complacency and partly caused by the social and political disruptions that we have managed to overcome only recently. To enhance our relevance, we must build on our crucial role as a super-connector for the West and the East through our financial services, logistics and trading activities. And we must actively participate in the development of the Greater Bay Area for ourselves and for the country as a whole.

Another asset of Hong Kong is that it stands out among Chinese metropolises for being the only jurisdiction in the world that has a truly bilingual — English and Chinese — common law system, and remains the only common law jurisdiction in China. Our common law system is the cornerstone of Hong Kong’s status as an international financial center, which provides a most favorable business-friendly environment for Western countries who wish to do business with China. It evidently makes great sense to protect our independent judicial system that enables Hong Kong to become a leading commercial arbitration and dispute-resolution center.

More than anything else, we should not let Hong Kong become a liability to the central government. Yet ever since the handover, some hostile Western governments and their local proxies have been trying to do just that, by attempting to make Hong Kong their subversive base against China. Their troublemaking came to a head with the illegal “Occupy Central” campaign in 2014 and the far-more-damaging insurrection riots in 2019. Indeed, their devious plot was to provoke the People’s Liberation Army into taking military-style action to suppress the riots so that they could declare the demise of “one country, two systems”. Fortunately, the central government’s skillful intervention by promulgating the National Security Law for Hong Kong came just in time to nip their plot in the bud. Hong Kong people should appreciate that the timely introduction of the National Security Law and electoral reforms have given “one country, two systems” a new lease of life. But we must remain vigilant of both local insurgents and foreign forces who wish to do us harm.

We also must do some serious soul-searching over some Hong Kong residents’ ingratitude for our mainland compatriots who recently brought their medical expertise and resources to help us cope with the pandemic’s resurgence. Instead of showing gratitude to them for risking infection and sacrificing their family welfare in helping us, some Hong Kong residents and local media even questioned these experienced medical workers’ qualifications. Not surprisingly, this has provoked some negative reactions from the mainland’s social media. If this unfavorable perception of Hong Kong people is allowed to grow in the mainland, it could have a bearing on the central government’s current extraordinarily generous policy toward Hong Kong.

Hong Kong people must forsake its unjustifiable superiority complex and arrogance toward our mainland brethren and understand that full integration with mainland society and people is the country’s ultimate goal.

Finally, for those who have decided or are contemplating emigrating because of their concerns over 2047, claiming that they are doing it for the sake of their children’s future, they should read a recent report by Hurun Research Institute and Beanstalk Education Group. Based on a survey of 600 Chinese individuals whose family wealth exceeds 10 million yuan ($1.57 million) and who planned to send their children to study abroad, it said most of the respondents want their children to return to China after their overseas studies, mainly because China has “favorable conditions”, which include better overall economic prospects and a better environment for entrepreneurship. Hong Kong and the mainland are indeed where our younger generation should spend their future!

The author is an adjunct professor of HKU Space and a council member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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