• Mon
  • Aug 18, 2014
  • Updated: 1:06am
Column
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 February, 2014, 1:02pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 February, 2014, 3:35am

Time to look beyond 2047

Frank Ching says our focus on electoral reforms needs to be widened to take in the concept of 'one country, two systems'

BIO

Frank Ching opened The Wall Street Journal’s bureau in Beijing in 1979 when the U.S. and China established diplomatic relations. Before that, he was with The New York Times in New York for 10 years. After Beijing, he wrote the book Ancestors and later joined the Far Eastern Economic Review.
 

Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung has said that the people of Hong Kong should accept an "imperfect" system for the first chief executive election by universal suffrage because it can be improved after 2017.

The acknowledgement of flaws in the proposed system came days after he wrote an article opposing civic nomination and nomination by political parties, saying they were not consistent with the Basic Law, which says candidates should be put forward by a "broadly representative nominating committee".

Yuen argued that the clear language and specific provisions of Article 45 rule out civic nomination or nomination by political parties. While he doesn't question that those methods are democratic and widely used in democratic societies, he says they cannot be adopted in Hong Kong because of the Basic Law.

What, then, does he mean when he says the system can be improved after 2017? Won't "the clear language" of the Basic Law be just as clear in future chief executive elections? Why is he so sure that "further changes would be possible beyond 2017"?

If we accept Yuen's interpretation of the Basic Law, the only way the electoral system can be improved in the future is if the Basic Law is amended. Since that is the case, why wait until 2027 or even 2037 when, in the "clear language" of the Basic Law, Hong Kong's life as a special administrative region will last only until 2047?

Actually, now is the time to focus not just on a few words in the Basic Law but on the big picture - the policy of "one country, two systems" as it was conceived some 30 years ago by Deng Xiaoping .

Deng made clear that it would not be a short-term policy. As he put it, "The 'one country, two systems' concept is an important strategic decision; it is not a measure of expediency."

In recent years, there has been discussion of the relative importance of "one country" and "two systems", with some in Beijing saying that "one country" is more important because without it there cannot be "two systems".

However, in a lengthy commentary first published in 1990, the Beijing Review said: "The 'two systems' is an important component of the 'one country, two systems' concept. Without the 'two systems', the concept would be non-existent." Expanding on this concept, it said: "One country, two systems will persist throughout the primary stage of socialism."

This is significant since the Communist Party has officially declared that the primary stage of socialism will last for more than 100 years. That being the case, it seems illogical to impose a 50-year limit on Hong Kong's life as a special administrative region.

By 2017, 20 of those 50 years would have elapsed. Instead of simply discussing how the 2017 election should be held, we should be thinking about Hong Kong's future both before and after 2047. Certainly, if there are going to be future electoral reforms, they should apply not only to a handful of elections before the 50-year period ends.

Frank Ching is a Hong Kong-based writer and commentator. frank.ching@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @FrankChing1

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This article is now closed to comments

bpoon1pc
Frank has a good intention to ask us to think about the situation after 2047. However, he does not see things in historical context and the development inside China for the next 50 years. It is very clear that when the 1-country 2-system was first developed, the emphasis is on the protection of 2-system rather than the integration of 1-country. But, as time goes, we must recognise the unavoidable fact that Hong Kong/China will be integrated as one Country while the two system will be less emphasised with Mainland China progress so fast. When we compare Shanghai and Hong Kong now, Shanghai becomes more global while Hong Kong is moving backward. Hong Kong needs to catch up if it wants to play a significant role as the center in Asia and a global financial center plus a platform between Mainland China with other China. With RMB becoming fully convertible and several trading centers will be developed inside in China, the over-emphasis on 2-system in Hong Kong will only make Hong Kong becomes less competitive. Using Language as examples, there is no question that all Shanghiese can speak fluent Mandarin with their improving English fluency while the dominant lanugage in Hong Kong is still Cantonese in school or in the society and English standard has dropped. How about mindset? Most HongKongers still equate China to CCP! This is so outdated and sad as we still have 50+ year of jet lagging and worry about the historical shadown but forge to embrace the change.
pslhk
Except that bit about Cantonese
I concur
-
"Shanghai becomes more global while Hong Kong is moving backward"
With more scholarists like ChanLiEuWongDaiMo in legco / govt
HK soon enough will surpass Bangkok and Cairo
more democratic than "Calcutta"
lucifer
Here is how 2047 will work...Hong Kong will essentially have no bargaining position and a new agreement will be hammered out with the government just accepting almost all the terms put forward by the CCP. The two places have to be kept separate in order not to wipe out the trillions in land values that are privately owned. However, the border will be almost non existent, the system will be made to resemble that of China, with the same rights and constitution and Hong Kong will become just another Chinese city, ripe for abuse and pollution.
HOWEVER, the race is on....if the coming economic crisis collapses one Party rule, then all bets are of. China is more likely to see a Soviet Style brake up than further unifications. This is because much of China's territory can only be ruled with an iron fist. The inhabitants despise the Chinese government and the Chinese people and will clearly make a run for it once nobody is standing on their chest anymore. This may also be the time for Hong Kong people to truly start ruling Hong Kong. The borders will need to remain and probably be enforced to prevent a massive influx of economic refugees.
321manu
Beyond 2047, the absence of the CCP altogether will likely represent the best chance for HK to retain it's current system, insofar as China's system at that time might already better emulate it. But if the CCP is still around in its current form, I would be less hopeful that HK will be left alone. And that would be too bad, as HK's current circumstance and any progress over the next 33 years will all be for naught. In that sense, it's too bad that HK's fate still rests in the hands of the mainland. But if mainlanders get rid of the CCP, at least everyone (mainlanders and HKers alike) can look forward to a better one.
pslhk
Beyond 2047?
To me, not a movie fan
the next one was Lust Caution
taken at No 26 Po Shan Road
-
Never an effortless writer
FC ineffectually applied himself
over depicting the sets of a scene
with the gibberish:
“if there are going to be FUTURE electoral reforms,
they SHOULD apply NOT only to a handful of elections
before the 50-year period ends.”
-
far out and far fetched
The house at 26 PSR has been leveled
in preparation for the development of a 20+storey high rise
-
Field of Dreams
We may build a dream
not to apply on others
but to see if others may want to partake in it
Thanks to democrazy and scholarism-grade politicians
we don’t know what to build in this field of broken nightmares
-
“When the Basic Law sunsets in 2047, … there is absolutely no political or legal commitment with respect to retention of immigration and border controls for the HKSAR. … Hong Kong's future is likely further integration into the Pearl River Delta. And, this is where infrastructure development now clearly points. … Who ever told you that there will be a HKSAR beyond 2047?”
Reader Allenzhertz
****www.scmp.com/news/world/article/1426368/canada-scraps-millionaire-visa-scheme-dumps-46000-chinese-applications
blue
It's a lot less complicated for China to extend the SAR another 50 years, especially due to the two different legal systems. Also what's the point of gradual and orderly progress towards universal suffrage of the CE if it's all going to get dissolved in 2047? Are you telling us that the one country, two systems concept is a sham? I thought you were a patriot.
pslhk
You rightly refer to 1C2S as a measure of patriotism
Why 1C2S and what is the purpose of its institution?
If universal suffrage in HKSAR benefits the nation
why would any patriot reject it?
If it is locally beneficial and nationally questionable
why the insistence before careful cost benefit consideration?
What are the grounds for believing that uni-suff is good for HKSAR?
BenS
I don't get it. Isn't the ambiguous line that CE candidates be put forward by a "broadly representative nominating committee" maneuverable? Why is that when people talk about future improvements it always involves changing the Basic Law? In fact, it is conceivable that the nominating committee be reformed to be like the electoral college in the US where representatives allocated according to geography and population densities. Then HK has a indirect nomination and universal voting while US has universal nomination and indirect voting.
lucifer
Right....you could apply universal suffrage to elections for the members of the nominating committee.
ianson
On the discouraging (hopefully to be proved wrong) assumption that the CCP is still running its dictatorship over the PRC 33 years from now, our only protection will be a well-established democratic system reflecting our very different view of human rights and freedoms. So there can be no compromise on any element in the election procedures that may impinge on that.

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