Date
18 December 2017
Martin Lee, founding chairman of Hong Kong's Democratic Party, has slammed Beijing's interpretation of the "One Country, Two Systems' policy. Photo: Bloomberg
Martin Lee, founding chairman of Hong Kong's Democratic Party, has slammed Beijing's interpretation of the "One Country, Two Systems' policy. Photo: Bloomberg

HK may have had an exodus if China showed its cards earlier: Lee

Many more people in Hong Kong would have emigrated before 1997, prior to the return of the city to Chinese rule, had they learnt of the central government’s interpretation of the “One Country, Two Systems” principle as was outlined by Beijing in a white paper Tuesday, said Martin Lee, founding chairman of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party. 

Slamming the white paper, Lee — who had been a member of the Hong Kong Basic Law Drafting Committee — said Beijing’s interpretation of the policy on Hong Kong raises questions whether China is really committed to genuine autonomy for the special administrative region. 

The Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong in 1997 followed discussions between China and Britain, and the Basic Law was passed after China consulted Hong Kong people. But Beijing’s latest white paper offers only the central government’s understanding of the “One Country, Two Systems” and the Basic Law, which offers no comfort for Hong Kong, Lee said, according to Ming Pao Daily.

The central government wants to openly interfere in Hong Kong’s affairs with the release of the white paper, the veteran democrat was quoted as saying in a separate Apple Daily report Wednesday. In the past, Beijing only meddled with the city’s local affairs in private through the liaison office in Hong Kong, but things could now change and the interference could be more open, he said. 

Lee Wing-tat, a member of the Basic Law Consultative Committee, also said that if this interpretation had been put forward in 1982 and 1983, many people would have opposed the handover and about two million people would have emigrated.

The Chinese Communist Party’s former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping had promised that Hong Kong’s social, economic and legal systems and individual freedom would not be affected after the handover.

The handover just meant a change in the flag, Deng had said, meaning the Chinese national flag will be raised in Hong Kong instead of the British flag.

Elsie Leung, Basic Law Committee vice-chairwoman, said the white paper is only a summary of the central government’s constant position on the “One Country, Two Systems”, Ming Pao Daily reported.

Political commentator Allen Lee Peng-fei said the white paper showed that the relationship between the central government and the democratic camp in Hong Kong has sunk to a very low level.

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