• Wed
  • Dec 24, 2014
  • Updated: 4:43am
PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 September, 2014, 1:11pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 September, 2014, 2:01am

Time for Hong Kong to face the reality of one country, one system

Peter Kammerer says there's little doubt by now that Hong Kong is under the thumb of the central government, two systems or not


Peter Kammerer is a long-time columnist and commentator for the SCMP. He has received recognition for his writing at the Hong Kong news Awards, the annual Human Rights Press Awards and from the Society of Publishing in Asia. Before moving to Hong Kong in 1988, he worked on newspapers in his native Australia.  

It's time to stop fooling ourselves: Hong Kong is living under one country, one system. The idea that, post 1997, there would be two systems and we would have a high degree of autonomy was to cushion the reality. Our freedoms would remain and things could only get better because there was also the promise of universal suffrage, many of us believed. There was a problem, though: no one bothered asking what "a high degree of autonomy" and "universal suffrage" actually meant.

Over the past few months, we've found out it means whatever Beijing says it means. The National People's Congress Standing Committee's white paper on Hong Kong has made plain that the central government rules our lives, with all branches of government - the executive, the administration and the legislature - ultimately answerable to it. Although the judiciary is supposed to be independent, the white paper contends that judges should be patriotic, a term that has not been properly defined. The Basic Law says Beijing is only responsible for foreign affairs and defence, but events of late say otherwise.

Liaison office officials are now vocal as well as visible at public functions. Police have shown a marked heavy-handedness towards pro-democracy protests, but were noticeably hands-off when supporters of the administration took to the streets two Sundays ago. This is not evidence that the "one country, two systems" model no longer applies, though. For me, three incidents last week are.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption's investigation of pro-democracy publisher Jimmy Lai Chee-ying was a surprise, as much for who was involved as the unusual public-relations-friendly manner in which it was announced. Leaflets asking questions about civil disobedience and attempting to explain universal suffrage won't be delivered by the post office on the grounds that they infringe a ban on "illegal, obscene, immoral, indecent, offensive or libellous writing". On the orders of Beijing, Hong Kong will now celebrate two new memorial days that have nothing to do with our city and everything to do with the central government's anti-Japanese rhetoric: September 3 , to mark China's 1945 victory in the war with Japan, and December 13, the day chosen to mourn the victims of the Nanking massacre.

But if there are still any doubts, Zhang Rongshun, the vice-chairman of the Standing Committee's legislative affairs commission, made all clear last week. Reaffirming what other mainland officials have been saying, he told Xinhua that the central government had full jurisdiction over the city and that Beijing was entitled to supervise our city's autonomous power. If legislation was determined to be not in keeping with the Basic Law, the NPC Standing Committee could return it to the legislature. The Chinese constitution had the highest legal status and all citizens, Hongkongers included, had to abide by its provisions.

In a nutshell, that means we're under the Communist Party's thumb, two systems or not.

There are those among us who have a problem with that and others who do not. But whatever our feelings, it's time to face up to reality.

Peter Kammerer is a senior writer at the Post


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This article is now closed to comments

The Beijing interpretation is now clear.....In Hong Kong, one system for the rich & privileged and one for the rest.
It's good to learn stuff though - I was always under the misapprehension that victory over the Japanese was secured by the Americans dropping two atom bombs on them. Now I know it was thanks to China all along.
I agree that China gave HK people 50 years to transition, but I am not party to your following insult.
China had kept its word on 'one country two systems' so far. How many governments would take such a hands-off approach to its own territory as China is doing for HK, and putting up with this constant stream of criticisms and insults? I fear that the ongoing troubles and unrealistic expectations might bring on 'one country, one system' sooner rather than later, and China is well within its rights to do so. And I have yet to be convinced that a majority of HK people is unhappy with the current political situation. Assess the situation in the streets, in offices, in restaurants. Life goes on as normal.
A reality of the human condition in all "civilised" societies everywhere. Even in the propaganda Paradise of the USA,the top 10% now owns 80% of the wealth, and increasing; 1/3 of US kids are in poverty; real unemployment is 50% when those who have given up looking for work are included in the jobless numbers. Time for revolution when the dollar loses reserve currency status.
Formerly ******
Time to get the hell out of Hong Kong for those who want to live free and be safe in their body and with their property.
時間去該死的 Hong 香港,對於那些想要生活自由而安全的在他們的身體和與他們的財產。
My condolences to the People of Hong Kong.
Well the reality is always 1 country, 1 system eventually. It's 1 country, 2 systems temporarily. China gave you 50 years to transition, and people like you Mr. Kammerer are the ones with the illusion and try to make a permanent gulf, a de facto separation. China cannot allow this mistaken concept to affect the future of Hong Kong.
Kevin Lau
The pan-democrats should wake up. They are living in HK, a part of China. China just has granted HK high degree of autonomy. So, HK is not a independent city or country. It is understandable and reasonable for China to keep certain degree of governance control. Inevitably, HK never has a right to claim an ideal universal suffrage. HKgers, please do not stick with the deadlock of universal suffrage. can we just move forward to adress economy, housing, social welfare issues. Our city has been lagging behind Shan Hai, Singapore. How many time, our rubbish legislators still want to waste? Please give back a peace and normal city to HKgers.
If you don't like it, leave.
Oh wait, you can't, your former colonial overlords didn't offer that way out did they.
Guess you're stuck with us.
Naturally. Chinese invented the atomic bomb 4,657 years ago.




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