19 October 2018
Following the Occupy protests last year, Hong Kong's youth are not afraid of standing up against the government. Photo: Bloomberg
Following the Occupy protests last year, Hong Kong's youth are not afraid of standing up against the government. Photo: Bloomberg

What’s the big deal if we reject ‘One Country, Two Systems’?

During the June 4 candlelight vigil at Victoria Park last week, students set fire to a copy of the Basic Law, and the MC just cheered. Now, we can assume that the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China must have at least known of the plan and approved such act beforehand even though it might not have been the one which actually perpetrated it.

Cheung Man-kwong, a leading figure of the Alliance, which organized the vigil, later admitted that he was aware of the action before it happened, but said he didn’t agree with the notion of rejecting the Basic Law.

On the surface, burning a copy of the Basic Law was just a decision of a handful of students. But we must bear in mind the fact that for a long period of time in the past, the local student community had called into question the credibility of both the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law, which they believed did not represent the consensus of the people of Hong Kong.

In fact, calls for amending the Basic Law are nothing new. Shortly after the promulgation of the Law back in the early 90s, pan-democrats burnt copies of the document, although they claimed they only burnt the chapters on the political system, which they believed was undemocratic, and stressed that they didn’t reject the entire Basic Law.

As the defeat of the political reform package in Legco seems imminent, the Communist Party, the pan-democrats and the Western forces behind them are all preparing for another round of actions in the aftermath, and calls for amending the Basic Law might be part of it. So the students’ act of burning it last week could have been a carefully planned prelude to an even more spectacular high drama later.

The mainstream pan-democrats were badly crushed during the Occupy Movement last year, and their popularity and credibility have been dented.

In order to pick up the pieces and redeem themselves, they have been working their hearts out over the past few months to secure some sort of solid promises in technical terms from Beijing regarding the progress of our political reforms in the days ahead.

Unfortunately, the pan-democrats were once again humiliated in Shenzhen on May 31 when Beijing officials took an even tougher stance on political reforms and stated in no uncertain terms that “pocket it first” meant “pocket it for life” — a real slap in the face for the pan-democrats.

In face of the rise of the indigenous faction, the mainstream pan-democrats need to put up a bigger publicity stunt to regain favor with the public and to re-establish their leadership in the local pro-democracy movement.

Given this situation, calling for an amendment of the Basic Law could just be part of their tricks.

To the Communist Party, it is not important whether the act of burning the Basic Law is an unilateral decision of the students or a show put up by the Alliance. The only thing it is concerned about is whether Hong Kong is provocatively heading towards independence and trying to deny “One Country, Two Systems”.

However, I would really like to ask, is “One Country, Two Systems” really that good for us?

For the rich and the privileged, including the pan-democratic politicians, the preservation of the “One Country, Two Systems” is definitely in their interests so that they can continue to keep their jobs and perks. The last thing they want is the demise of it.

However, to many youngsters who see little hope for democracy, a decent home and a prospective career, they wouldn’t care much even if “One Country, Two Systems” was abolished tomorrow.

Fearful we aren’t, because in the wake of the Occupy Movement, the people of Hong Kong are no longer afraid of staging a revolution and standing up against the government by force.

More importantly, everyone can take center stage in this resistance movement and spearhead new actions. The time of the fearless has arrived and there is no place for the faint-hearted, such as the hypocritical politicians.

After the defeat of the reform package in Legco, there is no question that the pan-democrats, students and the public will turn more and more radical. Burning the Basic Law is indeed nothing, and so what if we reject “One Country, Two Systems”?

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 9.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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HKEJ columnist

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