Confidence in 'one country, two systems' is eroding

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 March, 2012, 12:00am


The issue of pregnant mainlanders giving birth in Hong Kong has proved to be a tricky problem and has attracted attention at the National People's Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference meetings.

It is, after all, an internal affair for the Hong Kong government to resolve. But a proposal from former justice secretary Elsie Leung Oi-sie, who is now vice-chairwoman of the Basic Law Committee, to seek an interpretation by Beijing triggered a petition by 30 Hong Kong NPC delegates supporting her call.

This extraordinary move not only undermines the authority of the Hong Kong government and the authority of the Court of Final Appeal, it also undercuts the principles of 'one country, two systems' and weakens the city's high degree of autonomy.

Since Tung Chee-hwa - Hong Kong's first chief executive - stepped down, we have witnessed a gradual change in the implementation of the 'one country, two systems' policy. During the first seven years after the handover, the central government seemed to abide by the policy. But, now, it is a different story.

Several years ago, Cao Erbao, the head of research in Beijing's liaison office in Hong Kong, was already talking about the possibility of setting up a second governing force in Hong Kong. Soon after, we saw the involvement of the liaison office in many Hong Kong affairs, including local elections. It is said to have supported pro-Beijing and pro-establishment candidates at the 2008 Legislative Council election and at last year's district council polls.

It seems clear that the liaison office has persistently and egregiously violated the policy of 'one country, two systems'.

With both a chief executive election and Legco election this year, it is vital for the liaison office to begin fully respecting the policy that gives Hong Kong autonomy.

Unfortunately, officials have not always done so.

Take the West Kowloon design competition controversy as an example. It's rumoured that, after the scandal broke, the liaison office held meetings with some pro-establishment legislators in a bid to block Legco's attempt to invoke its powers under the Powers and Privileges Ordinance to conduct an inquiry. It is also said to have tried to pressure government officials to co-operate. But in the end, the council did set up a special committee to investigate the controversy.

In this smear campaign, it's ridiculous that Lew Mon-hung, a supporter of chief executive contender Leung Chun-ying, met a triad member with the suspected intention of acquiring scandalous information about Henry Tang Ying-yen. Lew is a Hong Kong delegate to the CPPCC, so the question is: was his action somehow tacitly approved by the central government? If that's the case, it would mean Beijing has abandoned the policies of 'one country, two systems' and 'Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong'.

But if he was acting on his own, then he has placed Beijing in an extremely awkward position.

Whatever the reasons behind his actions, they were unacceptable.

Leung and his team have denied any knowledge of the triad member, saying they did not know how he came to attend a dinner where the campaign team met rural leaders. But the scary reality is that the triads seem to be getting involved in our elections, with or without our consent.

The chief executive election has not only degenerated into a mud-slinging fight, it is seriously damaging people's confidence in the system.

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator.