24 October 2016
A file photo shows a pro-independence banner hung outside a pedestrian footbridge in Hong Kong.
A file photo shows a pro-independence banner hung outside a pedestrian footbridge in Hong Kong.

Here’s why an independent HK can actually help Beijing

An ultimate showdown, like breaking up for good, is never a once-for-all solution when two feuding sides become hysterical and stick to their positions and conflicting assertions. 

When it comes to matters of state, it is always the ordinary citizens that will pay the price for any indiscretions.

The only win-win solution is when the two parties opt to put aside their grudges and part in peace for a happy ending. It is especially so in the context of Hong Kong-China relations.

Beijing cadres appear to have toned down their rhetoric recently when commenting on an upsurge in Hong Kong “separatism”. That has helped assuage the ruffled feelings of the locals.

I feel that Hongkongers should also respond positively and approach Beijing to put forth our views in a rational and clear manner.

The two sides need to sit down to sort out a few questions calmly: have the cross-border relations fallen into such dire straits that there’s no hope of reconciliation?

If so, is “divorce” a practical way out?

Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing recently told Civic Party chairwoman Audrey Eu Yuet-mee at a forum that Beijing’s 2014 white paper proclaiming China’s comprehensive powers over Hong Kong is “a striking departure from the original legislative intent of the Basic Law” and that the way the liaison office rides over the SAR authorities also “contrasts unfavorably with former president Jiang Zemin’s (江澤民) hands-off policy seen in the initial years following the handover”.

Tsang also admits that Beijing itself is the cause of all these woes.

When the trust is gone, some otherwise simple, technical matters – like the immigration control co-location arrangement for the express rail link — become contentious affairs.

Profound skepticism still dogs the issue even though Beijing and its local lackeys have categorically denied that there is a political agenda in the co-location arrangement.

Now, what if Hong Kong is independent from China and is not run by a puppet government?

Hong Kong will then have its own sovereignty to ward off the long arm from across the border. And even if the city state is bullied by the big neighbor, we can take the case to the United Nations for arbitration and there won’t be allegations of “collusion with evil overseas forces”.

That will prompt Beijing to discipline itself.

When Hongkongers feel safe and secure, the co-location proposal can be implemented without a hitch.

In reality, “one country, two systems” is Beijing’s convenient, mind-your-own-business repudiation whenever Hong Kong’s autonomy is ridden roughshod over and the international community is concerned.

The situation is just like a quintessential case of domestic violence. Usually, the practical way is to put the batterers under confinement or transfer the victim to a refuge center.

Beijing’s failed effort to prod the SAR government to enact Article 23 of the Basic Law has left a task still unfinished today, making the central government constantly insecure.

But it knows too well that relaunching the legislation today will effectively push Hong Kong into anarchy. In the absence of the national security clause, Beijing feels constrained as it needs to tame Hongkongers with alternative methods.

But things can be a lot easier if Hong Kong is independent. Beijing can protest to Hong Kong’s foreign ministry, scrap business and cultural exchanges, recall its ambassador and declare Hong Kong diplomats in China “persona non grata” and expel them.

It can also flex its muscles or even launch surgical strikes when necessary, like when Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) waged military operations in 1979 when the Beijing-Hanoi ties soured.

Beijing will be on solid ground for all of these diplomatic or belligerent means.

And, top leaders of the “Republic of Hong Kong” will have to, albeit subtly, suppress anti-China groups for the city-state’s own interests.

An independent Hong Kong will also be conducive to Beijing’s graft-busting drive.

The current way to monitor mainland cadres in Hong Kong is to post a high ranking anti-corruption official in the SAR and escort, most likely secretly, suspected cadres back to the mainland for interrogation or assist in investigations. But such a workaround is a breach of the Basic Law.

If Hong Kong is independent, local graft watchdogs, without being lorded over by Beijing, will have the courage to take action on their own.

The truth is that even if Hong Kong can charter its own, separate way forward, Hongkongers, and the future generations as well, will still carry the genes of a cultural China, and preserve and uphold all the essence of the Chinese civilization. Japan, whose culture largely derived from China, is a living example.

Like a divorced couple, ties can be maintained in peace, but in each other’s own separate ways.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 21.

Translation by Frank Chen

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Former full-time member of the Hong Kong Government’s Central Policy Unit, former editor-in-chief of the Hong Kong Economic Journal

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