The Hong Kong government has made subtle changes to the wording of a fact sheet about the Basic Law, which could have “politically sensitive consequences” as it relates to the territory’s autonomy under Chinese sovereignty, activist investor David Webb said.
In his blog Webb-Site Reports, Webb noted that up until this week, the fact sheet, prepared by the Information Services Department, said: “The Basic Law is a constitutional document for the HKSAR. It enshrines within a legal document the important concepts of ‘one country, two systems’, ‘a high degree of autonomy’ and ‘Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong’.”
Now, the paragraph has been changed to this: “The Basic Law is a constitutional document for the HKSAR. It enshrines within a legal document the important concepts of ‘one country, two systems’, ‘Hong Kong People administering Hong Kong’ and a high degree of autonomy.”
At first sight, both look pretty much the same. But Webb pointed out the differences, namely the word “ruling” has been changed to “administering” and the emphasis has been shifted by rearranging the three important concepts. As it now appears, the “high degree of autonomy” comes last and no longer appears in quotes.
Webb said these changes are significant, as the fact sheet now appears to follow Beijing’s interpretation of the Basic Law.
In a controversial white paper released in June, the State Council stressed that the central government has “comprehensive jurisdiction” over the special administrative region and the city’s high degree of autonomy is not an inherent power but comes solely from Beijing’s authority.
“So 17 years after the Handover, they have decided that ‘ruling’ was too strong a word, and our high degree of autonomy should be downgraded to merely coming after ‘administering’,” Webb said.
He noted that the word “ruling” was never taken by Hongkongers to mean sovereign independence, but it gave the Hong Kong government the confidence to formulate policies — other than in the areas of foreign affairs and defense which are reserved for the central government — and not just “administering” policies fed by Beijing.
In fact, Webb said, the words “high degree of autonomy” and “Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong” were notably omitted in Premier Li Keqiang’s work report to the National People’s Conference in March.
He said the Hong Kong government might say that the new wording did not change the meaning but was merely a correction of an English interpretation, “but Hong Kongers know better than that”.
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