• Thu
  • Sep 18, 2014
  • Updated: 11:04am
Column
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 June, 2014, 11:56am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 June, 2014, 2:07am

Beijing's white paper sounds death knell for Hong Kong as we know it

Albert Cheng says by reneging on its pledge of a high degree of autonomy for 50 years, Beijing seeks to turn the SAR into just another Chinese city

BIO

Ir. Albert Cheng is the founder of Digital Broadcasting Corporation Hong Kong Limited, a current affairs commentator and columnist. He was formerly a direct elected Hong Kong SAR Legislative Councillor. Mr Cheng was voted by Time Magazine in 1997 as one of "the 25 most influential people in new Hong Kong" and selected by Business Week in 1998 as one of "the 50 stars of Asia".  
 

The State Council's white paper on the "one country, two systems" policy in Hong Kong is tantamount to a death certificate for China's promise of a "high degree of autonomy" in the special administrative region.

The paper was published in Chinese and English and has also been translated into French, Russian, German, Spanish, Arabic and Japanese.

It is obviously meant to be an international announcement of Beijing's latest policy on Hong Kong, almost 30 years after the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration spelling out the conditions of Hong Kong's return to Chinese rule.

Much of this wordy document is typical propaganda.

Take the section on "Supporting Hong Kong in the fight against Sars", for example. It reads: "To ensure the safety of life of the Hong Kong people and help the Hong Kong economy climb out of recession, the central government promptly lent a helping hand. Although the mainland also needed medical supplies in the fight against Sars, the central government provided a large quantity of free medical supplies to Hong Kong."

What it does not say is that the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus that was spread to the world via Hong Kong came from the mainland. Hong Kong was caught unprepared because of the Chinese authorities' cover-up of the health crisis despite media reports of growing panic.

If the central government had warned Hong Kong and the World Health Organisation of the hazard, our frontline medical staff might have had the first Sars patient in the city quarantined in time after he was admitted to Kwong Wah Hospital.

Propaganda aside, the white paper also signals a drastic change of Beijing's attitude to how Hong Kong is to be run.

It declares that "the high degree of autonomy of the HKSAR is not full autonomy, nor a decentralised power. It is the power to run local affairs as authorised by the central leadership. The high degree of autonomy of HKSAR is subject to the level of the central leadership's authorisation. There is no such thing called 'residual power'."

That is to say, Beijing can dictate what can or cannot be done in Hong Kong, as it sees fit. This, of course, includes the plan for the next chief executive to be elected on a "one-person, one-vote" basis in 2017.

This is a far cry from what Hong Kong people and the world were given to understand. China is supposed to exercise control only over the SAR's defence and diplomatic affairs. Apart from that, Hong Kong should have a free hand in administering its domestic affairs.

The paper also introduces "patriotism" as a selection criterion for officials of the SAR government, including judges at all levels. The notion of "Hong Kong people running Hong Kong" has now been twisted into "Hong Kong patriots running Hong Kong".

Top officials, of course, have to take an oath of allegiance before they take office. Yet, patriotism is not a legal concept. In practice, it will be up to Beijing to define who is patriotic.

Even a former communist high official closely involved in the Sino-British negotiations in the 1980s has found the white paper unpalatable.

Bao Tong, the former policy secretary of Zhao Ziyang , who signed the Joint Declaration as Chinese premier, has urged the Chinese authorities to retract the white paper so as to salvage its international reputation.

Bao denounced the paper as a short-sighted attempt to suppress the Occupy Central movement.

His views, expressed through the international media, resonate with mainstream public opinion in Hong Kong.

In June 1995, Fortune magazine screamed in its cover story, "The Death of Hong Kong", saying that under Chinese rule Hong Kong would lose its role as an international commercial and financial hub. Twelve years later, the magazine back-tracked and conceded, "Well, we were wrong … reports of Hong Kong's death have been greatly exaggerated."

Another seven years have gone by. Fortune's original prediction now does not seem that far off the mark, after all. The promise of Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy is meant to be valid for at least 50 years. The white paper, however, has ended that 33 years too early.

Critics have taken the white paper as a renunciation of "one country, two systems" as we know it.

We can hardly depend on Leung Chun-ying's administration to defend our rights. Instead, top local officials have been lobbying community leaders to rally behind the white paper.

It is now up to Hongkongers to speak up in the critical months ahead to fight for what we deserve.

The legal fraternity will launch a protest march from the High Court to the Court of Final Appeal next week.

Lawyers are, for the most part, not accustomed to street action. This may as well mark the beginning of a new campaign to prevent Hong Kong from degenerating into just another Chinese city under communist rule.

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator. taipan@albertcheng.hk

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47

This article is now closed to comments

whymak
Heaven knows no fury like an English semi-literate influence peddler scorned. For whatever reason, Mr. Cheng had Tsang Yum Kuen's ear. This led him to the delusion that the host of a street fighters' talk show has become a kingmaker and the trusted advisor of the former CE.
C.Y. Leung refused to play ball with sleaze. So Mr. Cheng took after Fortune Magazine and is now badmouthing the Death of Hong Kong.
Now what more do you want, Mr. Cheng? You have come a long way from a nobody mechanic in Vancouver airport to wealth and fame in our city, and now your ingratitude and vindictiveness urges have blinded you to cast this death wish on all of us. Are you a decent person or monster?
321manu
Is there an argument in there somewhere, or just random character assassination from a CCP stooge? The latter, I believe. I guess when you have no rebuttal to the message, the weak-minded and intellectually-stunted reach for the tried-and-true attack on the messenger instead. We know the CCP koolaid is particularly well-concocted to embolden just this kind of pathetic behaviour.
If you're gonna rock the logical fallacies, why not conclude a brilliant comment with a false dichotomy, right? I think, for an imaginative yet pious CCP apologist like whymak, he should really challenge himself to see how many logical fallacies he can squeeze into one comment. i think he's only scratched the surface of his full potential thus far.
whymak
It's getting to be 潑婦罵街, 苦力打架 just like the good old days in Mr. Albert Cheng's old radio show put downs. I am really enjoying this.
BTW, Mr. Cheng is still not forthcoming with his ghost writer as I requested early on in the commentaries.
321manu
Why would Mr. Cheng give 2 flying figs about your idiotic requests? The narcissism and inflated sense of grandeur you display is really rather amusing.
321manu
How About:
"As for the lawyers, solicitors and barristers, well what a week, meaning, they too cannot and should not speak for HK!"
---ummm, is this supposed to be substantively different from "Albert, you don't speak for me"? I mocked you for the "you don't speak for me" bit...and I think that aptly summarizes the entirety of your "argument" in that particular comment. Not sure what else can be read into it. Like I said, make a better (or at least more substantive) argument next time.
leepan
Nothing wrong with "the high degree of autonomy of the HKSAR is not full autonomy, nor a decentralised power. It is the power to run local affairs as authorised by the central leadership. The high degree of autonomy of HKSAR is subject to the level of the central leadership's authorisation. There is no such thing called 'residual power'."
To the degree that Hong Kong is not an independent state but part of China, autonomy always means autonomy to the degree that it would not China and the Chinese people's interest. The limitation not different from freedom always means freedom to do whatever one wants to degree that one is not harming other and/or oneself .
whymak
The photographer had produced definitely a winner for the Pulitzer Prize. The man in the foreground looks unmistakably a Neanderthal archetype. Impressive! Precious!
On the other hand, verbal gibberish and total absence of logic in speech by hatemongering readers reflect similar animus conveyed by the demonstrators in this picture.
321manu
Wow, is this what CCP stooges are reduced to these days? Mocking people's appearance? I think this comment takes the cake for representing the most base of CCP stooge attitudes I've ever seen. Now, there is quite a spectrum and library of deranged attitudes in that category, so to produce the outlier among that decorated cohort is quite a feat.
How About
Right on whymak!
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@Marcus, go wiki the physical features of Neanderthal and you might find it is you who wrongly connected Neanderthal with intelligence, which is simply baseless. whymak's remarks here refers to the lens distortion and the facial features and should carry no denigration other than the photography.
.
There, this is perhaps the ignorance-cult that you lot might be unaware of, coupled with another phenomenon which I won't be discussing here, the result is typically unthinkable:
"There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge." Isaac Asimov.
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It appears from the many pro-west cultists' posts elsewhere that it is you who are pre-occupied with hateful condemnation of all pro-China [all-inclusive] commentators are necessarily part of their propaganda, I believe this is the clearest sign of stupidity, not personal, on top of your ignorance. There is no good definition or 'box' for us, so 50 centers and wumouers, very convenient. You might care to Read and Think about some of these posts sometimes, to see if you manage to multitask that for starters in future.
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Marcus T Anthony
You accuse others of being full of hate even as you denounce them as Neanderthals without the capacity for intelligent thought. And you repeatedly criticise any idea or policy which purports to advocate freedom of thought and expression - unless it mirrors that of Beijing. Perhaps you might consider the possibility that there is an inherent contradiction to what you write and the attitudes that you hold.

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