Published: 23:29, July 5, 2021 | Updated: 09:49, July 6, 2021
HK people need to understand China's political system better
By Ho Lok-sang

Last week, on the day of the anniversary of the return of Hong Kong to China and the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Communist Party of China, a 50-year-old man who worked at the managerial level at a listed company knifed a police officer, almost killing him, and then killed himself. This lone-person terrorist attack had its origin in the misunderstanding that the CPC is not only dictatorial and undemocratic, but also imposed its will on Hong Kong against Hong Kong people’s will, dashing hope for democracy.

To me, that incident is a tragedy. The culprit is a tragic figure because his life had been ruined by misunderstandings and perception biases. One would have thought that today, with easy access to information, the misconception that Chinese people are being oppressed by cruel, authoritarian rule should have been laid to rest a long time ago. But alas, even well-educated people continue to harbor such biases against China and the CPC.

The truth, of course, is that China has a unique political system that has been serving the country very well but is poorly understood. It is a political system based on the unitary leadership of the CPC. Some people are automatically put off by the name “Communist” because communism had been associated with nationalization, central planning, concentration of power among a few, and lack of government accountability. But today, the CPC stresses government accountability and the use of public power strictly to serve the public interest only. Day in and day out, members of the CPC have been reminded that their primary interest must be to serve the people.

Today, no objective China observer would deny the huge progress the CPC has achieved in the last four decades on many fronts: public hygiene, healthcare, life expectancy, literacy rate, poverty alleviation, and environmental and ecological protection. The reasons are two. First is that its raison d’etre lies in serving the people. Second is its culture of humility before science, commitment to the identified goals, and strategic thinking. The “Three Represents” theory describes the CPC thus:

It represents the development trends of advanced productive forces.

It represents the orientations of an advanced culture.

It represents the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the people of China.

Serving the people is the third “represent”; humility before science, commitment to identified goals, and strategic thinking summarizes the first two “represents”. Because the CPC represents these values and these ways of doing things, no one is above the Party, and the Party does not belong to any family or any specific interest group. So all the references to the CPC-led political system as another “dynasty” are totally mistaken. Loyalty to the Party is not loyalty to any particular person, but rather, loyalty to the values and culture which the Party represents. If loyalty to the Party is understood as being loyal to whoever in power, then the “Gang of Four” would have prevailed. The “Gang of Four” had deviated from what the Party represents. That was why it had to fall.

Unfortunately, many people still think that there is no effective constraint to government power in China. Many people think that in the West, there is always an opposition party, which can then check against power abuses. Without an effective opposition, the CPC could do anything it likes. But that is a misconception. In China, no one is above the law. Today, hundreds of thousands of officials have been held accountable for their misconduct in the last decade. A decade ago, China had opened up a platform for reports of official misconduct, and it proved effective and has gained trust. Some local governments have awarded informants with cash rewards after those reports were found to be accurate. The 2020 World Justice Project gave China a better rating than India, a democracy, in civil justice, criminal justice, absence of corruption, due process of the law, and sanctions on official misconduct. Notwithstanding all these better ratings, the overall ratings of China’s fundamental rights are much lower than those of India, just because China is rated very low in “lawful transition of power” and in “non-governmental checks on government power”. But there is of course lawful transition of power in China based on China’s laws, and the aforementioned platform for reports of official misconduct is certainly a nongovernmental check.

Many people in Hong Kong have been brought up to believe that only elected governments are democratic. They have ignored the fact that politicians in electoral democracies need funding, and their patrons are typically big businesses and elites; moreover, because the electorate is easily manipulated by misinformation and appeals to emotions, policies and institutions tend to be biased toward the interests of big businesses and elites. That — such a system as practiced in the West is democratic but a people-centric unitary leadership in China is not — is the ultimate lie of the century. The National Security Law for Hong Kong is there not to undermine Hong Kong’s freedoms, but to protect Hong Kong and the mainland against sabotage.

The author is a senior research fellow at the Pan Sutong Shanghai-Hong Kong Economic Policy Research Institute, Lingnan University.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.