Published: 00:40, June 30, 2023 | Updated: 10:31, June 30, 2023
We must rebuild the good name of ‘one country, two systems’
By Ho Lok-sang

My birthday wish for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region at 26 is that all Hong Kong residents will treasure the opportunities offered by the one country, two systems framework and the vibrancy of the Chinese mainlands economy.

Looking back, the HKSAR in the past 26 years has not done as well as it should have done. We have failed the motherland. Looking forward, we need to work harder and smarter to rebuild the good name of one country, two systems.

In order for one country, two systems to work to its full extent, mutual trust between Beijing and Hong Kong is a must. Only with at least some mutual trust to begin with can we hope to gradually build stronger and stronger mutual trust over time. Only then will this governing framework work to its full extent.

Unfortunately, while Beijing had shown considerable trust in Hong Kong, the pan-democrats and their sympathizers never had any trust in Beijing. They had all along not kept good faith and wanted to dump key provisions of the Basic Law. Over and over, Beijings best intentions were misunderstood. Over and over, they tried to indoctrinate the Hong Kong public into seeing Beijing not as a friend but as a monster to be feared. One country, two systems cannot work without mutual trust. Beijings initial tolerance of bad faith on the part of the pan-democrats was taken advantage of, and they grew emboldened with trying to achieve Hong Kongs de facto independence.

Its a sad story but this stupidity meant much energy and time were wasted. Worse, it tarnished the good name of one country, two systems. The farce was beyond imagination. The damage was beyond imagination. Now is the time to rebuild the good name of one country, two systems. With the National Security Law for Hong Kong in place, Hong Kong will embark on a new journey: We can begin to focus on building a better tomorrow for residents through innovation, economic development, community building, and in particular working with other partners in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. 

I hope leaders on all sides will work together to build a better future both for Hong Kong and the motherland. We must put aside ideology and focus on the real issues and overcome the many challenges we face. We must demonstrate to the world, and particularly to our compatriots in Taiwan, that one country, two systems can work successfully not only for the good of Hong Kong residents but also for that of people in Taiwan

One country, two systems is a great design and an unprecedented institutional innovation. Chinas leadership has shown the world that it is innovative, dynamic, self-correcting and people-centric. This is really the story behind Chinas huge success, and this success will continue because Chinas leadership has been tested over time. If there is a China model to export to the world, it is just this down-to-earth devotion to work for the well-being of the people. China has always maintained that each country faces different challenges and must find its own way of development. If the pan-democrats had understood Beijing as such and had been law-abiding, Hong Kong would have done very well. We wasted much energy and time. Now is the time to work!

Its sad and unbelievable that the pan-democratic camp could be so ignorant and foolish, given its leaders are mostly professionals with good education. Unfortunately, blinded by the ideology that they subscribed to, they failed to see the logic and true nature of Chinas political system, which is grounded in a good understanding of human nature and entirely consistent with Chinese culture and civilization.  

The provisions in the Basic Law to protect Chinas key interests are necessary. Beijing has promised Hong Kong that eventually, when the conditions are right, the chief executive of HKSAR will be elected via universal suffrage although candidates for the key post must first be vetted and approved by a nominating committee. Respecting these provisions is the minimum that the pan-democrats need to do to show trust and respect for one country, two systems

Instead, they chose a path of all-out rejection of these provisions, and miseducated Hong Kongs younger generation. When some youngsters chose to boycott the moral and national education curriculum, leaders in the pan-democratic camp cheered them instead of bringing them back on the right path. When the government proposed that parents could join a committee that would oversee the delivery of the curriculum, the proposal was rejected unilaterally. No one in the pan-democratic camp pointed out that national education is important, and that the pedagogical aspects can be resolved scientifically. Dialogue was closed unilaterally.

I was most disappointed when the governments 2015 proposal for political reform was rejected by the pan-democrats. Its, I still think, the most liberal proposal one could imagine that is within the law.     

At this juncture, the only thing that we can and should do is to work harder to make up for lost time. There is a lot of work to do. Today, the Civic Party and the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions are history. But all those in the pan-democratic camp should amend their ways and try to play a positive role in Hong Kongs development. I hope leaders on all sides will work together to build a better future both for Hong Kong and the motherland. We must put aside ideology and focus on the real issues and overcome the many challenges we face. We must demonstrate to the world, and particularly to our compatriots in Taiwan, that one country, two systems can work successfully not only for the good of Hong Kong residents but also for that of people in Taiwan.  

The author is director of Pan Sutong Shanghai-HK Economic Policy Research Institute, Lingnan University.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.