Hong Kong should consider adopting a “one country, one system” policy if the city wants to enjoy more economic benefits from mainland China, business leader Paul Cheng Ming-fun said, reacting to the recent controversy over the State Council’s white paper on Hong Kong autonomy.
“The white paper is just like a reminder from a father to a son of who the real decision maker is,” Cheng, chairman of China High Growth Fund and vice chairman of Esprit (00330.HK), told EJ Insight in an interview. It is just like a family talk, he said.
Hong Kong people should focus on the pace of Hong Kong’s integration into mainland China, he said.
“The current situation is that the parent [mainland China] is now quite successful. How should a son [Hong Kong] react to benefit from it?”
That is why Hong Kong should consider merging with mainland China at a faster pace to achieve “one country, one system” as early as possible, Cheng said.
“Although [former Chinese leader] Deng Xiaoping said Hong Kong will remain unchanged for 50 years, do we really need to wait that long? We should ask for a faster pace of integration in order to get more benefits for our younger generation,” Cheng said.
“Hong Kong is a Chinese city. We will not be able to enjoy the robust economic growth in China if we don’t ask for a closer partnership with the country,” he said, adding that many other Asian cities envy Hong Kong because of its geographic advantage and close relations with the mainland.
Cheng’s comments came after the State Council on June 10 published a white paper to “reiterate” the definition of the “one country, two systems” principle. The central government has the power of supervision over the high degree of autonomy enjoyed by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), the cabinet said.
It said Hong Kong’s “high degree of autonomy” is not an inherent power, but one that comes solely from authorization by the central leadership. It also said all members of the city’s governing body, including the judicial departments, must be patriotic.
Many Hong Kong people are worried Beijing may change its “one country, two systems” policy and reduce the freedoms and judicial independence they now enjoy. However, Cheng said he has no such worries.
“Of course, people who rule Hong Kong should love the country… It is fair to exclude all the anti-China candidates from being nominated in the Chief Executive election,” he said. Transforming the existing 1,200-member election committee into a nomination panel consisting of 1,600 to 2,400 people is probably the only choice for Hong Kong, he said.
As Beijing has promised universal suffrage in 2017, people should not insist on civil nomination and should not threaten society as the Occupy Central movement is trying to do, he said.
People should not abuse the freedom they are enjoying in Hong Kong, Cheng said. It will be very dangerous if any peaceful protest is hijacked by a small group of radicals and turns it into a riot, he said.
“No one will benefit from such scenario, except the foreign media. Last Friday I received a phone call from a friend who lives in the United States asking me about how chaotic it was in Hong Kong. He said he saw on CNN a protest at the Legislative Council’s entrance,” Cheng said.
He said a few shots from a handful of radicals are enough to destroy Hong Kong’s reputation as a stable and safe city.
Last Friday, about 1,000 protesters gathered at the front gate of the Legco building to oppose the government’s plan to develop the northeastern New Territories. Some of them tried to break into the building by crashing the doors and windows. Thirteen people were arrested.
“What did the Occupy Wall Street movement contribute to society? I don’t think Occupy Central is good for Hong Kong people, especially the young people,” he said. It will ruin young people’s lives if they are arrested for attending an illegal activity.
Besides, Occupy Central will disrupt the ordinary lives of workers and residents in Central, he said. “It won’t affect me at all. Businessmen may not necessarily have to stay in Hong Kong. We should put more effort in maintaining the investment environment in the city.”
“I travel a lot but I always find that Hong Kong is the best place in the world due to its high efficiency, freedom and safety,” Cheng said.
“Do we really need to politicize everything in Hong Kong? Will such move really help the next generation of Hong Kong people?” he said, adding that maintaining the city’s prosperity is the best way to provide opportunities for young people.
Cheng, 78, was appointed to Legco in 1988 and represented the Commercial (First) constituency from 1995 to 1997. He is past chairman of both the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong and the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce.
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