Like it or not, Beijing’s redefinition of “one country, two systems” puts absolute emphasis on “one country” and the central government’s power to nominate loyalists as a prerequisite to “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong”.
How difficult is Hong Kong’s journey to democracy under Chinese sovereignty? Just take a look at Beijing’s recent statements about the Dalai Lama.
Beijing wants to appoint the next Tibetan Buddhist leader, just as it chooses Catholic bishops, under a framework that ensures China’s “territorial integrity and ethnic harmony”.
That prompted an ironic joke from the current Dalai Lama that he might not be reincarnated.
The Chinese rhetoric came during last week’s twin sessions of China’s highest political advisory body and the national legislature, the same forum which lectured us about constitutional reform and cross-border relations.
If we were to take literally every word that was said, we would end up with an even deeper sense of alienation.
Henry Cheng did little to reassure us.
Last week in Beijing, Cheng talked down Hong Kong’s prospects. He linked a dire future to unpatriotic young Hong Kong people and to old problems such as social inequality, soaring home prices and lack of upward mobility.
In fact, these problems worsened after 1997, during which time Hong Kong’s business elite, including Cheng’s family, grew even wealthier.
Cheng blamed these problems for last year’s protests.
But the truth is that the protests were not only about social issues and democracy but also about Hong Kong people’s growing distrust of Beijing and the Communist Party.
This is the source of their reluctance to embrace the motherland.
How do we explain the sharp fall in the number of Hongkongers who consider themselves Chinese?
Much of this decline happened after Leung Chun-ying became chief executive in 2012, according to surveys.
Obviously, this concerns his government’s failure to reflect the aspirations of Hong Kong people to Beijing and the fact that they will have no say in the selection of their next leader in 2017.
But in Cheng’s mind, Hong Kong people are naive to think that genuine universal suffrage is a silver bullet that can solve Hong Kong’s problems.
Cheng did nothing except show his ignorance. Common sense tells us that freedom of choice — as in the exercise of true democracy — is not a perfect concept but it’s a step toward making public officials accountable to their constituents.
Cheng then asked: Why stay in Hong Kong if you don’t have faith in your motherland?
Again, he missed the point.
Hong Kong people will not forsake Hong Kong because they love and live the values and institutions it represents.
It’s something that cannot be said about China.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 17.
Translation by Frank Chen
[Chinese version 中文版]
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