Hong Kong's autumn is known to be the season of sunshine rather than storms. But the prevailing political climate suggests otherwise. On Wednesday, a retiring judge of the city's highest court warned of clouds heralding a "storm of unprecedented ferocity". Justice Kemal Bokhary was apparently referring to calls for an reinterpretation of a 2001 ruling, which upheld the right of abode to babies born to mainland parents in the city. Separately in Beijing, Chen Zuoer, former deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, attacked what he saw as a rapid rise of a pro-independence force here. The force, he said, was spreading like a virus and warranted serious attention.
It could be mere coincidence that the two veteran public officers spoke of the different problems they perceived on the same day. But when put together, the remarks have, not surprisingly, caused quite a storm. Not only are the wordings unusually strong, the messages are also unequivocally disturbing - dark clouds are looming over the horizon.
The retiring judge was apparently not so much concerned about former justice secretary Elsie Leung Oi-sie criticising the court for making "mistakes" in the abode ruling. What worries him is apparently the talk, and possibly actions, that may result in a long-standing court decision being overturned by Beijing. His views are no doubt shared by many in the community.
But for Beijing, the storm cloud is totally different. Speaking at a Hong Kong event last month, Chen was already dismayed by the sight of people brandishing colonial flags during street protests. While the action can be interpreted as mere nostalgia for the way of life under British rule, it can also be seen as a challenge to China's resumption of sovereignty; or, as Chen put it, a pro-independence force.
The perception of "one city, two storm clouds" speaks volumes of the distrust between Beijing and the local community. It is sad to see the divide has yet to be bridged 15 years after the handover. Justified or not, the concerns should be addressed immediately. The chief executive, being the bridge between the two, has the duty to dispel these concerns and assure both sides that their worries do not materialise.
What sets Hong Kong apart from the mainland are our freedoms and the rule of law. Yet, being part of China has also sharpened our edges. Every effort should be made to strengthen our one country, two systems form of government.