(MA XUEJING / CHINA DAILY)
The fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has gradually subsided, and life is slowly returning to normal.
However, due to a lack of customs clearance between Hong Kong and the mainland, the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and the “Northern Metropolis” development plans could face delays and challenges.
Hong Kong should make up for lost time by promoting social reconciliation, building a consensus on development, and returning to the rational track of democracy and rule of law.
It could start that process with the election of the sixth-term chief executive-elect on May 8.
A central aim of “one country, two systems” is to promote Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity, with stability being a prerequisite for prosperity.
Over the past decade, the city has fallen into the trap of “excessive politicization”.
Since the 2014 illegal “Occupy Central” movement and the 2019”anti-extradition” riots, Hong Kong society has been divided, social trust is low, and relations between the government and the people have been tense.
The rule of law and social order have eroded, with transformative growth encountering severe challenges.
This instability can be partly attributed to economic inequality, but the underlying cause is that “patriots administering Hong Kong” has not taken root.
In fact, the so-called “anti-extradition bill” turmoil and the pandemic outbreaks are closely related to the weak foundation of “patriots administering Hong Kong” and ineffective governance.
The National People’s Congress Standing Committee introduced the National Security Law for Hong Kong in 2020 and later reformed the electoral system to improve the “one country, two systems” arrangement.
“Patriots administering Hong Kong” is the fundamental principle.
While the National Security Law is aimed at preventing or dealing with social disorder, and ensuring Hong Kong residents’ safety, the core principles of the new electoral system are balanced participation and orderly democracy, which is in stark contrast to the old electoral system, under which some local radicals and foreign forces tried to turn the city into a hotbed of subversion.
An “unsafe” Hong Kong endangers the city, and also compromises the security of the entire country, especially the safety of the socialist system.
The riots in 2019, the radicals’ intervention in Hong Kong’s District Council election and the 2020 power grab plan exposed loopholes in the old electoral system.
The reformed electoral system will thwart attempts to trigger a “color revolution” in Hong Kong.
It is democratic, and in line with “one country, two systems” and Hong Kong’s real situation.
The new electoral system will help Hong Kong residents elect competent members to the Legislative Council and a capable and qualified chief executive who meets the requirements of “patriots administering Hong Kong”.
It will allow only patriots to contest the elections, and prevent anti-China forces from disrupting governance or triggering a “color revolution”.
Second, the focus of elections in Hong Kong has shifted from the political system to concrete policies.
Candidates no longer have to take extreme positions, and instead contest elections based on their abilities and policies to govern.
Also, the new electoral system has drastically squeezed the room for external forces interfering in Hong Kong, and will thus help the city to achieve a high degree of autonomy under “one country, two systems”, facilitating the SAR’s integration with the motherland’s development.
Hong Kong faces big challenges, but with the institutional guarantee of “one country, two systems”, the full support of the central authorities, the improved electoral system and its economic advantages, the city is capable of getting out of the predicament and maintaining its position as a leading global financial center and logistics hub.
Hong Kong’s strategic role, as part of “one country, two systems”, in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area is clear. It is an engine of the Greater Bay Area and one of the eight prime economic centers in the 14th Five-Year Plan.
Apart from its traditional advantages as a leading international financial, and trade and shipping hub, Hong Kong is also slowly becoming an innovation and high-tech hub, Sino-foreign cultural and artistic exchange center, and a regional intellectual property trading center thanks to the continuous economic growth of the mainland.
This new era requires comprehensive and forward-looking strategic guidance, as well as policy support. That is exactly where the new electoral system and the new chief executive come into play.
Hong Kong also needs more security guarantees to cope with the fierce Sino-US disputes and differences, and therefore should further integrate with the motherland’s development plan and try to benefit more from the Belt and Road Initiative.
The new Hong Kong chief executive and governing team should fully understand their responsibilities, and take initiatives based on the actual situation and national strategy.
In short, the city can further benefit by integrating with the motherland, facilitating deeper cooperation between the mainland and the rest of the world, and improving governance.
The author is an associate professor at the School of Law, Beihang University.
The views do not necessarily represent those of China Daily.