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  • Jul 10, 2014
  • Updated: 2:11pm
PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 December, 2012, 2:34am

Foolish to talk of moving faster towards 'one country'

Michael Chugani asks if those suggesting we move faster towards 'one country' have learned anything from the national education brouhaha


Michael Chugani is a Hong Kong-born American citizen who has worked for many years as a journalist in Hong Kong, the USA and London. Aside from being a South China Morning Post columnist he also hosts ATV’s Newsline show, a radio show and writes for two Chinese-language publications. He has published a number of books on politics which contain English and Chinese versions.

Why are we now, all of a sudden, refighting an old battle that was long settled? Didn't we painstakingly define and lock into place years ago how we differed from the mainland? That's what made it possible for capitalist Hong Kong to be reunited with communist China. Yet here we are, squabbling again over how to balance "one country" with "two systems".

A few so-called Beijing loyalists engaged in loose talk that seemed to suggest we reset the parameters. Is that reason enough for Hongkongers to conclude our freedoms are under threat? I don't know. But nothing good can come of the divisive public debate we're having over it. It's a chicken-and-egg question to ask which comes first - one country or two systems. Neither has extra weight under the terms of the sovereignty transfer. It's a fine balancing act.

That balancing act was given a life of 50 years, after which it becomes just one country. We have already used up 15 of those years. Over the next 35, Hongkongers must mentally and emotionally accept the reality of just one country. Should we make an early start, or do we still have time? Patriots would argue the sooner the better, but those who fear for Hong Kong's freedoms would insist there's no rush.

Yes, there's no rush, but starting early also makes sense. It gives us more time to adjust to the inevitable. What we don't need now are irresponsible remarks which give the impression that Beijing wants to change the balance of "one country, two systems". We've seen too much of that lately from Beijing loyalists. How can you blame the average Hongkonger for fearing that something is afoot?

Before people such as former justice secretary Elsie Leung Oi-see say things that seem to suggest we should quicken our pace towards "one country", she should remember the politically sensitive times we are now in. Hong Kong has just emerged from an emotionally draining debate about national education, which many feared was aimed at brainwashing our children. Surely, now is not the time for Beijing loyalists to talk about changing the legal system, getting rid of foreign judges and making judges include a political element in their rulings?

What really astounded me was Shiu Sin-por essentially saying the government's Central Policy Unit, which he now heads, will become a propaganda tool of the administration to influence public opinion. Has he already forgotten, or did he not learn, the painful lesson of the national education debate, which made clear Hongkongers will fight any attempt at brainwashing? The CPU was created at taxpayers' expense to honestly and independently gauge public opinion about government policies. It was not meant as a tool to tamper with public opinion.

Leung Chun-ying's election as chief executive has already aroused suspicion that, as a loyalist, he is under orders from Beijing to fulfil certain political missions that will erode our way of life. How true that is I don't know. As yet, I don't see an imminent threat to "one country, two systems". The jitters generated by recent foolhardy remarks may be just the growing pains of the inevitability of one country. But the loyalists need to think before they speak.

Michael Chugani is a columnist and TV show host. mickchug@gmail.com


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Lets not dismiss that there is the possibility (and inevitability) that China will change - for better or worse. It may move closer to our system which is the aspiration of most people: individual freedom and rights, due process in law and order ... Why should we now sell ourselves short? It is not the
end until it is the end.
Wrong. It's not a "fine balancing act". It is very clearly defined as entirely (I emphasise, entirely) our Hong Kong system within or under the umbrella of the Chinese nation. "One country, two systems" does not mean one nation but we somehow fudge our membership of it and it does not mean two systems but ours has to adopt parts of the other. The Basic Law takes a vague, even airy-fairy, statement of principle, "one country, two systems" and makes it clear beyond a shadow of a doubt how the lines are drawn between our system and Beijing's and to the limited extent to which we sit under its rule (defence, foreign affairs). Any suggestion otherwise is a gross transgression on what was agreed and what you very correctly remind us were terms that made the incorporation of our laissez-faire (that's from the Basic Law, not "capitalist") into the Communist Party's domain possible.
During the American Revolution (Independance movement), many of those Americans loyal to London were forced to move to Canada, which the Americans failed to annex during the War of 1812, thanks to a British win at Waterloo over the French. Now the country of Canada still stands, still a member of the Commonwealth.
HK's autonomy seems assured as long as it seeks no independance. Both sides (Mainland and HK) are changing. Calling today's China a communist China, and its system communist, reflects poor judgment.
Today's China may not be communist in the classical sense of the word, but it is, and has always been, an authoritarian country, which has always made Hongkongers shudder at the thought of "one country" prevailing over "two systems".
Time to move back to the country of your citizenship, Mr. Chugani?


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