In denial: Hong Kong independence calls ignore the inextricable link to China
Tik Chi Yuen says close mainland ties are crucial for Hong Kong’s prosperity and calls for independence are undermining the confidence of the international community
Some radical localists are promoting independence for Hong Kong. Behind this stance lies the belief that the city’s future is purely a matter for Hong Kong people and none of the Chinese government’s business.
This makes me hesitate, not only because of my personal patriotic convictions that, as a Chinese, I want to see the betterment of Chinese people. It is also because Hong Kong’s destiny is deeply linked with the future of China. It is not only that most of our basic necessities come from the mainland, but also that Hong Kong, from the very beginning, has needed patronage to maintain interaction and communications with the outside world.
When we look back to the 1980s, the principle of “one country, two systems” stipulated in the Basic Law was the best option for the handover. The Basic Law, as a mini-constitution, was endorsed by the Chinese and British governments and recognised internationally. Although Hong Kong people were excluded from the Sino-British dialogue, the articles in the Basic Law were highly acceptable to the public.
If we take a stance for independence, then we are saying we will give up the Basic Law and the “one country, two systems” principle. The Basic Law stipulates that both the Hong Kong public and the Chinese government should abide by the mini-constitution. We certainly do not wish to see any harmful practices transplanted into Hong Kong territory or action by mainland law-enforcement officials here.
Without the Basic Law, what would guide Hong Kong’s development? It provides us with constitutional rights that limit Beijing’s interference in Hong Kong’s affairs. When the Chinese government crosses the border, Hong Kong people can complain openly and defend our autonomy based on the judicial system here. Moreover, Beijing needs to explain its actions to both the Hong Kong public and the international community. Without such protection, nobody can defend our rights.
Hong Kong has never been an isolated island. It is part of the international community. The Basic Law guides how Hong Kong works with the world and, to the international community, it is far more than a piece of paper; it is an oath made by the both the Chinese and British governments.
Without this background, the Basic Law is empty. If we take it out of the equation, where is the constitutional framework and its background support in which the international community can place its trust? Any uncertainty over Hong Kong’s future will lead to disaster for the people and the economy.
Moreover, the Sino-British dialogue in the 1980s laid a foundation that the Chinese government is a stakeholder in the destiny of Hong Kong. With a stance promoting independence, Beijing is removed from the negotiating table. Without the words of the Chinese government, whatever we promote is empty and unworkable.
The only way forward is for deep and comprehensive dialogue to ensure the full implementation of “one country, two systems”, as stipulated in the Basic Law. This is the best way to protect the interests of the Hong Kong public, and the only viable option.
Yes, there have been problems during the implementation of “one country, two systems”, but that does not mean we should get rid of it.
These problems will continue if the Hong Kong public and Chinese government are hostile to, and have no confidence in, each other. Rejection of a return to the negotiating table will only push Hong Kong into an abyss.
This talk of independence has also triggered Beijing’s suspicion, which could lead to the imposition of more restrictions on political development here.
Beijing must play its part by abandoning its rigid “leftist” position and be willing to conduct an honest and comprehensive dialogue with the Hong Kong public, with mutual trust. That is the only future for us.
Hong Kong can contribute to China in so many ways, and in return can benefit from deep interaction with the mainland.
Tik Chi Yuen is chairperson of the Third Side