Speech – Implementation and continuance of ‘one country, two systems’ (Andrew Leung)

President, the “one country, two systems” principle, formulated by our country’s late leader, DENG Xiaoping in the 80s, is not only forward-looking, but also rational and practical. Under the premise of Hong Kong’s return to the Motherland, the principle has a stabilizing effect on Hong Kong people’s confidence in the future. It has been almost 18 years since Hong Kong’s reunification. Owing to the contacts over the past 18years, the relationship between the Central Authorities and the Special Administrative Region (SAR) as well as Hong Kong people should have been closer; yet the fact is just the opposite. One of the reasons is that some people have wrongly understood the principle and policy concerning “one country, two systems”, thereby giving rise to incessant disputes.

Take the recent work on constitutional reform as an example. Right from the very beginning, Members of the pan-democratic camp had denied the constitutional power of the Central Authorities over the electoral system for the Chief Executive. They insisted on adopting civil nomination which ran contrary to the Basic Law and even staged the 79-day illegal Occupy movement following the relevant decision made by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC), and eventually, they vetoed the constitutional reform package. In the face of such an attitude of giving no regard to “one country”, how can the Central Authorities believe that the pan-democrats will uphold “one country, two systems”?

When speaking on the motion on the constitutional reform a week ago, Mr Dennis KWOK pointed out that if the constitutional reform package was endorsed, the Central Government would claim that it had already honoured the pledge as stipulated in Article 45 of the Basic Law, about which you can learn more here, to implement universal suffrage for the Chief Executive election, and hence, “pocket it first” might mean “pocket it forever”. I would like to point out here that the viewpoints of Mr KWOK and other pan-democratic Members had completely ignored the requirement that the method for selecting the Chief Executive must take into account the actual situation in the SAR and proceed in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress. As a matter of fact, the Central Authorities had explicitly pointed out that there was room for further enhancement in the universal suffrage proposals in future, and relevant arrangements had been laid down in Annex I to the Basic Law as well as the “Five-step Process” determined by the NPCSC in 2004, both of which manifested the sincerity of the Central Authorities in implementing the Basic Law and “one country, two systems”. Yet, the pan-democratic camp had deliberately distorted the interpretation of such sincerity. I think all of us should be able to tell what their intention is.

Recently, Mr KWOK has also pointed out in a newspaper article that the voting down of the constitutional reform package was not detrimental to “one country, two systems”, as constitutional reform was by no means the entirety of “one country, two systems”. Nonetheless, I would like to ask Mr KWOK whether the vetoing of the constitutional reform package has undermined the mutual trust between the Central Authorities and the SAR. At present, the constitutional development has come to a standstill and radical forces who are gaining ground are also expected to further dominate the poor political ecology in the future. Even the Basic Law has started to be openly challenged by a minority of people. We are worried that if we gradually lose the foundation laid down by “one country, two systems”, can Hong Kong bear this consequence?

During the discussion on the constitutional reform, the pan-democrats adopted an evasive attitude towards the requirement that the Chief Executive has to “love the country and Hong Kong”, and they even condemned the Central Authorities for attempting to override the Basic Law or “one country, two systems” on the ground of “national security”. Such remarks have in effect placed both parties on the opposite side and deliberately eliminated the element of “one country” from “one country, two systems”, which is even more misleading.

The pre-requisite of “one country, two systems” is “one country”. On this basis, any policy implemented in Hong Kong has to be compatible with the overall interests of the State or even tie in with national policies, and we can by no means implement any policy endangering national security simply because Hong Kong enjoys “a high degree of autonomy” in its administration. As a SAR, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong has to be appointed by the Central Authorities and be accountable to the Central Authorities and the SAR. If the Chief Executive does not safeguard the nation’s sovereignty, security and development interests but adopts a mindset of confronting with the Central Authorities at all times, how can Hong Kong implement “one country, two systems”? The attitude of the pan-democrats has somehow illustrated the deviation in the interpretation of “one country, two systems” among various political forces, and this is the crisis faced by “one country, two systems” at the moment.

Last year, the State Council published the White Paper on The Practice of the “One Country, Two Systems” Policy in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (White Paper), stating that the Central Government exercises “overall jurisdiction over Hong Kong”. The White Paper also conveys the message in a simple and direct manner that “the powers of the SAR are granted by the Central Authorities”, and that both the Central Authorities and the State play a very important role in the SAR’s development and hence should be respected. From a macro point of view, “one country, two systems” is a kind of experiment which entails a conciliatory attitude from both sides and leaving room to each other. It is certainly undesirable to pull the rope tightly and make it even more entangled. Regrettably, more often than not, the reality does not happen in the desirable direction. The pan-democrats are of the view that the original intent and purpose of implementing “one country, two systems” are to prevent China’s “one system” from influencing Hong Kong, and only then can the core values of Hong Kong be safeguarded. This explains why they have been adopting a confrontational attitude towards our country over the years. Of course, “Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong” and “a high degree of autonomy” have already been protected by the provisions of the Basic Law. However, they have forgotten that “one country, two systems” is adopted by the Central Government to realize the peaceful reunification of the country with the aims to safeguard the country’s sovereignty, security and development interests, and to maintain the long-term prosperity and stability in Hong Kong. In this connection, we should never do any harm to the interests of our country.

Over the last couple of years, conflicts between Hong Kong and the Mainland have intensified. People from the localism have been organizing the “anti-locust” campaigns and “liberation protests” time and again and they have even gone so far as to propose the elimination of anything Chinese. Some youngsters have even intruded into the barracks of the People’s Liberation Army as well as burnt copies of the Basic Law at public meetings. Not only have the pan-democrats not inveighed against such behaviours, some of them have even participated in certain campaigns. This being the case, people are inevitably worried whether “one country, two systems” will sustain.

President, “one country, two systems” has been in operation for some 18 years, during which there are incidents of wilful distortion, resulting in certain people having different thoughts or even misunderstandings towards the Basic Law and “one country, two systems”. Such thoughts and misunderstandings must be rectified so as to maintain and safeguard “one country, two systems”. Though the process is difficult, I am still optimistic and reckon that Hong Kong people will try hard to respect the constitutional basis, establish a relationship of mutual trust with the Central Authorities as well as re-establish healthy interaction. Only by better implementing and continuing “one country, two systems” can we maintain a sustainable political, economic and social development of Hong Kong, and have a more extensive room for development.

At this moment, we should all consider afresh how to implement “one country, two systems” properly and rationalize the relationship between the Central Authorities and the SAR. I hope the pan-democratic camp will abandon their mentality of confronting the Central Authorities and establish a healthy relationship with the latter instead. The SAR Government should also play an active role in narrowing the gap between the Central Authorities and the pan-democrats, so that proper dialogue can be established. If it is proved that the principle of “one country, two systems” does not work, the consequences for Hong Kong and the young people will be disastrous.



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