Several moves taken by Beijing in recent years in relation to Hong Kong, such as the publication of a white paper on “One Country, Two Systems” by the State Council in June 2014 and the so-called “August 31st Decision”, have given Hong Kong people an impression that the central government is determined to get tough with the city and that it won’t relent under any circumstances.
Now, is it really the case?
In a recent interview with a Hong Kong newspaper, Feng Wei, deputy director of State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affiars Office, offered his views on the recent Mongkok clashes, the Legco by-election and relationship between Hong Kong and the central authorities.
The remarks were made in a surprisingly soft tone.
Unlike Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who strongly condemned the protesters involved in the Mongkok clashes and referred to the incident as a “riot”, Feng said the underlying reasons that had led to the clashes could have been multiple and shouldn’t have been oversimplified.
He went on to explain that young people being discontented with the political status quo and getting defiant against authority has become almost a global trend in recent years, and that Hong Kong is no exception, which to some extent can explain why the Mongkok clashes took place.
Separatism has only a very small audience in Hong Kong, Feng said, but admitted that there is room for improvement for the central government in terms of its ways, tone and even choice of words when it comes to communicating with the people of the territory.
It appears that Feng is much more pragmatic and open-minded than our belligerent and confrontational chief executive.
The mainland official’s words have again proven a golden rule in politics: whenever you get pragmatic, you become moderate.
While I agree, to a certain extent, with the interpretation that Beijing is temporarily softening its stance on Hong Kong as it wants to boost the prospects of the pro-establishment camp in the upcoming Legco election, I still hope that what Feng said in his interview does signal the beginning of Beijing’s adoption of a more flexible and receptive approach to Hong Kong in the days ahead.
In fact, throughout the history of party politics, hard-liners and moderates have always co-existed in almost every political group, be they the pan-democrats or even the Chinese Communist Party itself.
The fact that Beijing’s hardline stance on Hong Kong over the past several years has completely backfired and alienated even more Hong Kong people and further undermined people’s confidence in “One Country Two Systems” suggests that hawkish approach just don’t work with us.
I’m sure Beijing has taken notice of that.
I believe the vast majority of the Hong Kong people truly want “One Country Two Systems” to work better, because it is the best way out for us, as long as Beijing strictly keeps its promise of allowing Hong Kong people to run Hong Kong and won’t interfere in the city’s internal affairs.
It is exactly because of my faith in “One Country Two Systems” and my wish to perfect this system that I decided to take part in politics back in 2012.
However, to restore Hong Kong’s people’s faith in “One Country Two Systems”, soft tones and moderate choice of words alone are not enough.
Beijing must take concrete actions such as resolving the issue of missing booksellers and withdrawing the plan for co-location customs arrangements at the West Kowloon Terminus.
Only by doing so can Beijing demonstrate that it is determined to defend and uphold the principle of “One Country Two Systems”.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 22.
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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