Understanding can bridge the Hong Kong - mainland gap

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 May, 2013, 4:10am


The "one country, two systems" policy has brought Hong Kong benefits and bound it closer to the mainland. But the integration also caused tension and conflicts. From milk powder to non-locals giving birth, from misbehaving tourists to earthquake donations, there has been growing discontent towards the north. The anti-mainland sentiment is worrying. Better strategies are needed to put cross-border relations back on track.

The concerns are shared by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and former Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office director Lu Ping . Amid rising animosity, they urged locals to consider the feelings of mainlanders before making hostile comments. It was revealed that Leung went further to mandate assessment of "mainland reaction" for all policies submitted for approval starting next month. The order was apparently prompted by an outcry on the mainland against the cap on travellers carrying formula milk powder out of the city.

At present, officials are required to weigh carefully all the pros and cons during policy deliberations. Given rising cross-border tensions, an appraisal of mainland reaction is understandable, especially when the proposals are likely to affect the mainland. The new initiative simply helps in making an informed decision after fully assessing the policy impact in and outside the city. It does not necessarily mean mainland interests will come first. As in the past, decisions should be based on Hong Kong's best interests.

Former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang said colonial officials were not required to assess Britain's reaction to domestic policies. She argued that policymakers should not be constantly looking over their shoulders, trying to second-guess possible reactions to proposals that fall squarely within the city's autonomy. Her views are probably shared by many who attached more importance to the separation of "two systems" rather than "one country". The scepticism is not surprising. After all, the city is built on a set of core values and systems different from those on the mainland. It is the differences that give rise to the tension and conflict.

Like it or not, misunderstanding and friction will continue as Hong Kong and the mainland move closer under one country. But closer integration need not be achieved at the expense of the city's autonomy. The tension can be reduced through efforts to better understand each other's interests.