HK's autonomy should not be given up readily

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 November, 2011, 12:00am


The more times Chris Patten, the last governor, returns to Hong Kong, the more mindful I am of his anxiety about our community's autonomy.

A high degree of autonomy, as enshrined in the Basic Law, was supposed to be the highest governing principle after the handover. But in 1996 Patten already foresaw it being given away gradually by Hong Kong people, rather than being taken away by the mainland authorities.

The central government is often nicknamed 'grandpa', in reference to its economic giveaways to Hong Kong, and casts a shadow on local politics. Respect for the elderly is an ancient tradition in Chinese culture, so nothing is done to upset 'grandpa'. Autonomy has evolved into an acceptance of a government run like a traditional family.

An independent judiciary is the foundation of Hong Kong's autonomy. Recently there were calls for the government to seek an interpretation of the law from the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. This happened before the High Court ruled in favour of domestic helpers seeking permanent residency here.

Hong Kong's autonomy has to be defended strongly against interference from Beijing. If we can make the case that social stability hinges on our autonomy, then 'grandpa' might respect our right to self-governance.