19 January 2019
Zhang Dejiang (inset) stressed that all powers and authority in the Hong Kong SAR come from the central authorities. Photos: HKEJ, CNSA
Zhang Dejiang (inset) stressed that all powers and authority in the Hong Kong SAR come from the central authorities. Photos: HKEJ, CNSA

Time to say goodbye to One Country, Two Systems

As pro-Beijing politicians prepare to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the central government has sent one important message: Our beloved city has no core values other than those based on Beijing’s values.

As such, Beijing has driven the final nail in the coffin of the “one country, two systems” principle, which is supposed to govern our city’s return to Chinese sovereignty.

On Saturday top state leader Zhang Dejiang urged those people in the territory who are still clinging to their “independence” dream to wake up to reality, stressing that all powers and authority in the SAR are franchised by the central authorities.

Speaking at a conference on the 20th anniversary of the Basic Law in Hong Kong, Zhang made it clear that Beijing wants to further tighten its grip on the territory.

Zhang said Beijing has the right over the filing and approval of local laws, the power to appoint the chief executive and other principal government officials, the right to interpret the Basic Law, to decide on issues relating to the SAR’s political development, to order the chief executive and to listen to the CE’s reports on the discharge of his or her duties.

He said all these rights should be detailed and known to all concerned. In short, Beijing wants to make it clear that it is the boss while Hong Kong is a mere employee.

Does the Hong Kong SAR have any right to do something on its own, without Beijing’s authorization?

The answer is none whatsoever.

Zhang stressed that Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy is authorized by the central government. Hong Kong and China have not entered into a separation of powers arrangement. Hong Kong cannot stand against Beijing by invoking its autonomy.

Thus, Hong Kong has the responsibility to perform its duty under the provisions of China’s constitution on national security.

That’s the reason why the incoming administration of Carrie Lam must work out a plan to legislate Article 23 of the Basic Law. That’s Beijing’s order.

Zhang said the ruling team of Hong Kong SAR should be composed of people who respect the ethnic Chinese, fully embrace the sovereignty of the People’s Republic of China over Hong Kong, and will not harm the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong.

It seems quite obvious that Beijing does not want foreigners to be a part of Hong Kong’s ruling class, meaning its government officials, police officers and, most importantly, judges.

Hong Kong considers judicial independence as one of its core values, believing that it is essential to isolate the judiciary from political and other outside influences, something which gives confidence to global investors.

But now, Beijing wants the ruling class to respect the ethnic Chinese. What exactly does this mean?

Hong Kong prides itself as an international city. So what’s the point of Beijing trying to promote nationalism on top of the “one country, two systems” framework?

In fact, the foreign judges and officials who chose to remain in the city after the 1997 handover has cast their vote of confidence in Beijing’s rule over Hong Kong.

But that’s not enough for Beijing. It wants to have the final say in the choice of all senior officials in the territory, to establish the criteria for their appointment and monitor their performance, and that pertains to their loyalty not only to the Hong Kong SAR but more importantly to the People’s Republic of China.

That seems to imply that foreign judges may not be qualified to serve in Hong Kong in the future as patriotism becomes an essential factor.

So Beijing has all the rights and powers to oversee Hong Kong affairs, from policy making to official appointment of those running the judiciary system.

All this means that Beijing will play a more direct role in Hong Kong in the future and will work towards its integration with the mainland.

Thus, incoming Chief Executive Carrie Lam will have little else to do apart from awaiting Beijing’s orders on how to run the territory.

The latest statements from Beijing indicate that the new administration will have to work for the legislation of Article 23 of the Basic Law, even though Lam herself has indicated that she prefers dealing with livelihood rather than political issues first.

And so as Beijing celebrates the 20th anniversary of the handover, Hong Kong people should reflect on the central government’s plans for the territory and how different they are from our own idea of what Hong Kong should be.

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EJ Insight writer

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