‘One country, two systems’ begins new journey

It was the original intent of and a prerequisite for the implementation of “one country, two systems”, upon China resuming the exercise of sovereign rule over Hong Kong, to ensure that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to be established under this framework would be run by patriots for the interests of both the nation and the SAR, not least of which is national security.

In June 1984, when meeting a delegation of Hong Kong business and community leaders visiting Beijing, then-State leader Deng Xiaoping made it clear: “Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong” means that “Hong Kong should be managed by Hong Kong people, with patriots forming the main body. The criteria for a patriot are to respect one’s own nation, sincerely support the resumption of the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong by the motherland, and not to do any harm to Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability”.

With the formation of a new Election Committee and a new LegCo and the election of a new chief executive under the revamped electoral system, which ensures that only high-caliber patriots will fill the SAR government’s upper echelon, “One country, two systems” is back on the right path and embarking on a new journey leading to a brighter future for Hong Kong

Beijing’s emphasis on “patriots governing Hong Kong” from the very beginning could be understood in the context that the city had been run by the British for one and a half centuries; that the city had been a bastion of anti-China and anti-communist elements because of historical reasons; and that Hong Kong’s last governor, Chris Patten, had been obsessed with and hastily pushing through his “political reform” plans, which were widely seen as moves to breed and implant a generation of local proxies across the political establishment of the post-handover Hong Kong in the hope of maintaining the United Kingdom’s influence, and thus interests, in the city after 1997.

Beijing’s suspicion over and objection to Patten’s hasty political reforms are totally warranted, given the fact that Great Britain has gotten quite a few of its former colonies into deep trouble upon ending its colonial rule there, a fact widely accepted by people around the world, including some British leaders. “As with so many of the problems of the world, we are responsible for their creation in the first place,” said then-UK prime minister David Cameron in April 2011 during a visit to Pakistan, a country that came into being amid the horrific communal violence that marked the end of British rule.

Unfortunately, the “patriots governing Hong Kong” precept has not been fully and accurately enforced after the reunification in July 1997. Anti-China and anti-communist elements have occupied many of Hong Kong’s important public offices, particularly in the legislature, the Legislative Council, wherein they blocked government bills at will by abusing the minority veto they enjoyed in the chamber.

As a result, some 25 years into its establishment, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has still failed to fulfill its constitutional obligation of enacting local legislation to safeguard national security, as stipulated in Article 23 of the Basic Law, whereas the Macao Special Administrative Region long ago did so — on Feb 25, 2009, to be specific.

In numerous cases, the anti-China elements filibustered, derailed or thwarted altogether government bills just to extort political ransom in their attempts to advance their political agenda, which was to ultimately turn the special administrative region into an independent political entity practicing a political system they prefer after grabbing its governing power.

For a good part of the past 25 years, the anti-China politicians in the Legislative Council have been successful in thwarting government policies, many of which were intended to tackle the city’s deep-seated socioeconomic problems, thus hindering government efforts to improve people’s livelihoods and living standards. The government’s failure to solve those pressing problems in turn fed public discontent, which played into the hands of the anti-China camp in rallying support. As a result, LegCo was rendered dysfunctional, failing to fulfill its duty, particularly over recent years as political radicalism grew; and Hong Kong was mired in endless political bickering, like a person standing on running sand, with its socioeconomic development being stagnant.

Worse, in the absence of a national security law until the enactment of the National Security Law for Hong Kong by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress in June 2020, the anti-China and anti-communist forces in Hong Kong had taken every available chance to cause trouble for the special administrative region government in their relentless attempts to reap political gains and advance their political agenda. Political radicalism, featuring the advocacy of implicit secessionism under the guise of “nativism” or “self-determination” as well as explicit secessionism that openly called for Hong Kong independence, surged in recent years in step with anti-China geopolitical maneuvers in the West.

Banking on Beijing maintaining its relatively hands-off approach toward Hong Kong’s affairs, as it did during the first two decades after the 1997 reunification, the radicals in the city had become increasingly reckless and uninhibited in challenging Beijing’s powers over Hong Kong as stipulated in the nation’s Constitution and the SAR’s Basic Law, as well as the constitutional order governing Hong Kong as a special administrative region of China. They, including members of LegCo, had gone so far as to collude with external hostile forces ever so frequently in advancing their political agenda.

The dysfunctional LegCo, the “Occupy Central”, the Mong Kok riots and the 2019 riots finally let Beijing realize that its magnanimity had failed to win over the radicals in Hong Kong, and that drastic institutional reforms must be done in Hong Kong without further delay to bring the special administrative region back to the right path and keep “one country, two systems” intact.

That means the subversive activities in the region must be stopped; the saboteurs must be kept at bay; and the “patriots governing Hong Kong” precept must be put into full play so as to stop Trojan horses from further wreaking havoc within the SAR’s political establishment. The National Security Law for Hong Kong and the revamp of the SAR’s electoral system thus came into being in 2020 and 2021 respectively.

Beijing’s move to improve Hong Kong’s electoral system falls within its overall jurisdiction over Hong Kong. The right to decide the SAR’s political system rests with the National People’s Congress, the top organ of State power in the country, which has the unchallengeable power to improve the SAR’s electoral system in accordance with the nation’s Constitution and the SAR’s Basic Law, which is also promulgated by the NPC.

With the formation of a new Election Committee and a new LegCo and the election of a new chief executive under the revamped electoral system, which ensures that only high-caliber patriots will fill the SAR government’s upper echelon, “One country, two systems” is back on the right path and embarking on a new journey leading to a brighter future for Hong Kong. The “patriots governing Hong Kong” precept is no longer just words on paper but actually anchored by law and institutionalized safeguards. It will no doubt strengthen the foundation of Hong Kong’s long-term prosperity and stability.

The author is a current-affairs commentator. 

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.