23 October 2016
Hong Kong must prepare for the next round of battle on issues related to the city's autonomy and freedoms. Photo: HKEJ
Hong Kong must prepare for the next round of battle on issues related to the city's autonomy and freedoms. Photo: HKEJ

2047: How should Hong Kong prepare for it?

There has been considerable debate recently about what could lie in store for Hong Kong when the “One Country, Two Systems” arrangement comes to an end in 2047.

A day after the government’s political reform package was vetoed in Legco on June 18, the Civic Party’s Alan Leong Kah-kit published an article on the way forward for the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.

In the article, Leong stressed that “one of the tasks we cannot avoid is to ponder the future of Hong Kong after 2047″, and criticized Beijing for continuously violating Article 22 of the Basic Law on various major issues in recent years.

Article 22 stipulates that “no department of the Central People’s Government and no province, autonomous region, or municipality directly under the Central Government may interfere in the affairs which the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region administers on its own in accordance with this Law.”

Leong said the white paper released by the State Council last year on implementation of “One Country Two Systems” and the “831 resolution” of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee on Hong Kong’s electoral framework marked a clear infringement of the city’s autonomy as guaranteed under the Basic Law.

In fact the indigenous faction had been talking about the 2047 issue much before Leong did.

Chin Wan, a local political academic and commentator, once suggested that Hong Kong should form a confederation with the mainland so as to resolve the constitutional issue between Hong Kong and China once and for all.

The idea might sound a bit far-fetched, but it did shed new light on the ambiguities in the relationship between Hong Kong and the mainland, an issue that might have far-reaching implications for the future of our city.

The principle of “One Country, Two Systems” actually originated from Article 12 of the Sino-British Joint Declaration and Article 5 of the Basic Law, both of which guarantee that the existing way of life and economic system in Hong Kong will remain unchanged for 50 years after the handover.

As far as the constitution of the People’s Republic of China is concerned, there isn’t much reference to the “One Country, Two Systems”.

However, Article 1 of the constitution states in no uncertain terms that “Socialism is the fundamental system of the People’s Republic of China on which the country was founded…  and all laws, including administrative laws and local laws, must not contradict provisions of the constitution.”

However, Article 5 of the Basic Law stipulates that “the socialist system and policies shall not be practiced in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and the previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years.”

It seems there is a clear contradiction between the Chinese constitution and the Basic Law, which cries out for further explanation and interpretation in order to clarify the constitutional status of Hong Kong as a special administrative region under China.

Obviously, any discussion or debate over the continuation or repeal of the Basic Law will inevitably spark controversies, not only in Hong Kong but also on the mainland, where nationalist sentiment currently reigns supreme.

Therefore, the discussion over the future of Hong Kong beyond 2047 definitely has far more profound implications for our city as a whole socially and economically than merely the approval of mortgages for home buyers.

Here, I am referring to comments by some people that some banks, two years from now, might refuse to approve 30-year mortgages due to concerns over the “uncertainties regarding 2047″.

Over the past decade, Beijing’s infiltration into the various aspects of our society has already reached epidemic proportions. The central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong has expanded so much since 2003 that it has almost become another power center in the territory.

Meanwhile, as the civil society of Hong Kong has come of age, prosperity is no longer necessarily equal to stability.

And the resistance movements against controversial issues such as the national and moral education syllabus and a high-speed rail project indicate that many Hongkongers actually regard the integration between Hong Kong and the mainland as a peril rather than an opportunity.

In fact, the rights awareness and sense of identity have grown so rapidly among the people of Hong Kong since the handover that they would no longer entrust their political power to their proxies like they did during the colonial period.

The Umbrella Revolution represented a watershed in local social movements, after which many of our fellow citizens have lost faith in the establishment and decided to regain control of their own fate by taking to the streets.

People have become much more vocal and are not afraid to stand up for their rights and values.

While 2047 might be seen by some as a “doomsday” for Hong Kong, it can also be seen as an opportunity for us to negotiate a new treaty with Beijing so that we can change our fate.

From now on, the people of Hong Kong must take nothing for granted nor expect someone else to protect our rights.

We must strengthen ourselves by embarking on more extensive public discussion and community engagement in order to prepare for the next round of talks concerning Hong Kong’s future.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 29.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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