Hong Kong separateness is rooted in Basic Law

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 June, 2013, 1:44am

Hong Kong is drifting away from the mainland. More and more Hong Kong people feel less and less Chinese, according to a new survey by the University of Hong Kong's Public Opinion Programme. Nearly four in 10 respondents describe themselves as "Hongkongers", a rise of 11 percentage points from December.

The results correspond to similar findings by Baptist University's Hong Kong Transition Project. The cooling of sentiments towards the mainland and mainlanders is a fact among significant portions of our population, especially the younger generations. The problem is how to address this fact.

Your interpretations will probably be dictated by your political or ideological beliefs. Thus mainland officers such as Hao Tiechuan, director general of publicity, cultural and sports affairs at the liaison office, dismissed the HKU survey as "illogical" and "unscientific". But if you are a pan-democrat, you will probably blame the allegedly heavy-handed manner in which the central government has tried to interfere in our affairs. Or you might blame unruly mainland visitors for the tensions they cause with the locals.

Here, let me state my own bias and argue against these orthodoxies, which have become part of our city's tedious new culture of political correctness and self-righteousness. Let me shock you with this: our increasing separateness is the predictable outcome of Beijing's respect for, and adherence to, the political and institutional arrangements under "one country, two systems" as codified in the Basic Law.

As a foundational document, our mini-constitution actually promotes our separateness from the mainland, rather than integration with it. Of course, integration has always been the hope of nationalists and successive post-handover administrations. And they all cite "one country, two systems" and "following the Basic Law", perfectly oblivious to the problem that institutional ideas are not like taxis that, as Max Weber says, you can order them to go where you want.

I will explain in tomorrow's column how "one country, two systems" has come to shape our sense of separate identity and quasi-sovereignty; and what and whether anything can be or should be done about it.