• Fri
  • Aug 22, 2014
  • Updated: 9:48pm
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 November, 2013, 2:27am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 November, 2013, 2:31pm

Is 'one country, two systems' Hong Kong's driving force?

BIO

Howard Winn has been with the South China Morning Post for two and half years after previous stints as business editor and deputy editor of The Standard, and business editor of Asia Times. His writing has also been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. He writes the Lai See column which focuses on the lighter side of business.
 

It is with some regret that we missed out on the "Implementation of the Basic Law" luncheon. It was held in Toronto recently and was therefore impractical to attend.

The guest speaker was Dr Eugene Chan, who rejoices in the title of Convenor of the Working Group on Overseas Community under the Basic Law Promotion Steering Committee of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. One wonders what he did wrong to be consigned to this role.

The luncheon was a seminar on the implementation of the Basic Law in Hong Kong, and Chan's task was, according to the government's press announcement, "to share Hong Kong's experience in implementing the Basic Law in the past 15 years as well as how the Basic Law serves as a driving force for Hong Kong to keep forging ahead".

We hope there was some decent food and wine in view of the unappetising subject for discussion. However, the event raises some important points.

Why is the Hong Kong government sending people round the world and presumably paying them to spout this crude propaganda? Chan will hardly have astonished his audience by telling them that the principle of "'one country, two systems' has been practised successfully since the Basic Law came into effect on July 1, 1997". He went on to say that the SAR exercises a "high degree of autonomy in accordance with the Basic law and enjoys executive, legislative, and independence judicial power". How true is this, we wonder? The Executive Council and the department heads have to be cleared by Beijing, as do candidates for chief executive. There are a lot of other decisions which we aren't told about which seem to need approval from the Liaison Office. This office also provides electoral assistance to some candidates.

It is unlikely that we will ever know exactly how one country, two systems works, since historians will have no worthwhile government records to work with. The Director of Audit, among others, has said that the system of maintaining government records seems to have collapsed since 1997. Literally mountains of government records have been destroyed without being properly vetted. In an article in the Hong Kong Lawyer in 2011, William Waung, a retired judge and chairman of the Archives Action Group, wrote: "What is particularly worrying is that key government departments and bureaus, where the most important decisions are being made (such as Chief Executive's Office, the Chief Secretary's Office, the Financial Secretary's Office and the Security Bureau) have not made policy records available for selection and preservation since 1997."

It's all very well touring round the world telling everyone what a great system "One country two systems" is, but we all know Hong Kong is a good deal less independent than officials would have us believe.

 

Market's decisive role

We woke up this morning with high expectations for the local stock market, since our leaders in Beijing had resolved to give the markets a "decisive role" in the economy. After all, one of the factors in the recent rise of the A-share markets and our own Hang Seng Index was, dare we say, the hype surrounding the third plenum.

However, judging by their performance, the markets were evidently disappointed at the lack of concrete details to emerge from the conclave of top party leaders. The HSI was down almost 2 per cent while the CSI300 (Composite Shanghai Index) fell 2.2 per cent - its heaviest loss in four months.

But these indices do not tell the whole story. Although the mainland markets fell, defence and surveillance stocks rose sharply, buoyed by signs that the leadership intended to revamp security in the face of rising threats at home and abroad.

"A plan to start a new 'state security committee' offered just about the only positive takeaway for investors," Reuters reported.

It added that information security firm Bluedon Information Security Technology rose by the maximum-allowed 10 per cent limit in Shenzhen. Network security firms such as Beijing Venustech jumped 5 per cent in Shenzhen, while Aerosun, a manufacturer of automobile products used by the military, climbed 10 per cent in Shanghai.

The market has spoken decisively, but possibly not in the way the leadership anticipated.

 

Have you got any stories that Lai See should know about? E-mail them to howard.winn@scmp.com

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This article is now closed to comments

kctony
"One country two systems, eh? Which system is better, eh?"
blue
In the end, it's the civil servants that run the HK government's day to day operations. Beijing probably doesn't micromanage HK, but it's obvious Beijing interferes with anything they consider politically sensitive either through official constitutional channels and unofficial channels too. .

HK still has autonomy though, and it's still quite significant especially when you factor in its judiciary. However no matter how you slice it, Beijing has veto power. Regardless, HK people need to keep the pressure on in order for Beijing to honor their promise of genuine universal suffrage in 2017.

It's not like most tiny sovereign city states fare much better. France officially through Monaco's constitution and unofficially has quite a lot of political influence on Monaco, despite it being a sovereign state.
 
 
 
 
 

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