On June 22, 1984, then paramount leader Deng Xiaoping met with representatives of Hong Kong’s business community in Beijing.
During the meeting, Deng reassured the business leaders that after the 1997 handover, Hong Kong’s existing social and economic system would remain unchanged, so would our existing way of life and our status as a global trading and financial hub.
He also asserted that all Beijing would do after the handover was send a People’s Liberation Army garrison to the city, and other than that, the central government would not interfere in the internal affairs of the Special Administrative Region.
Deng’s words set the tone for Beijing’s policy over Hong Kong after 1997, and served as a powerful reassurance of Beijing’s commitment to upholding “one country, two systems” and preserving “a high degree of autonomy” in our city.
Deng’s promise is also embodied in the Basic Law, of which Article 22 clearly stipulates that the central authorities in Beijing and their representatives in Hong Kong, as well as local authorities across the mainland, must never interfere in our city’s affairs.
Unfortunately, in recent years, the unwavering promise Deng made more than 30 years ago has continued to be eroded, with Beijing becoming increasingly aggressive and blatant in getting its claws into our city’s internal affairs, thereby violating Article 22 of the Basic Law and undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy.
For example, the white paper on “one country, two systems” issued by the State Council in 2014 and the Beijing Liaison Office’s active intervention in the 2017 chief executive election have raised grave public concern over whether Deng’s “one country, two systems” promise still applies.
Recent calls for the enactment of Article 22 is an indication of growing public concern over Beijing’s escalating political interference.
In order to allay public concern and restore people’s confidence in “one country, two systems”, we believe it is time for Beijing and the SAR government to once again reassert their commitment to upholding a “high degree of autonomy” for our city as promised under the Basic Law.
In the meantime, the Liaison Office must exercise restraint and keep its hands off our local elections in order to avoid falling under suspicion of interfering in our city’s internal affairs.
In the recent CE election, all the three candidates vowed to mend fences in society once elected, and that is undoubtedly one of the most urgent tasks, if not the most urgent task, facing Chief Executive-elect Carrie Lam.
I believe one way to start addressing this fundamental issue is for both Beijing and the new SAR administration to reassert their commitment to upholding “one country, two systems”.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 27
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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