Zhang Dejiang: ‘One country, two systems’ is here to stay
Zhang Dejiang says China’s intent behind ‘one country, two systems’, the bedrock of Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, has not wavered and will not, and patience and confidence are needed to iron out the problems
I would like to take this opportunity to talk from the heart about my views on “one country, two systems” and issues related to Hong Kong. These could be summarised in three points. The first is: Do not forget the original intent so that we can achieve the ultimate goal. When Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) first proposed the “one country, two systems” concept as a way to resolve the historic issues related to Hong Kong, what he meant was to resume the power to exercise sovereignty over Hong Kong yet retain its characteristics and advantages as much as possible so as to maintain a sustainable prosperity. Whenever we talk about Hong Kong and “one country, two systems”, we must adhere to the original intent and cannot go against it.
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Here, I would like to talk about a few issues concerning the original intent of “one country, two systems”, which Hong Kong society is particularly concerned about. One is localism. The moon is bright over my home town; everyone has special homeland feelings. I come from the northeast of China and I love my hometown. I am Chinese, and I love my country. Hong Kong compatriots should be respected for cherishing their characteristic way of life and values. As a matter of fact, some basic principles of “one country, two systems” include: maintaining Hong Kong’s social and economic systems and way of life, Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong and a high degree of autonomy. These are the best ways to take care of the actual circumstances of Hong Kong.
Today, there is a very tiny minority of people who intend to defy “one country” and the central government. They even advocate the independence of Hong Kong. This is not localism, but separatism under the camouflage of localism, which is contrary to the original idea of “one country, two systems”. I believe the majority of Hong Kong people are aware of this and can judge whether this is a blessing or a curse for Hong Kong.
The second is about the rule of law. Rule of law is one of the core values of Hong Kong society, and is the cornerstone of social stability. It is also the bottom line of freedom. When the cornerstone is shaken, the bottom line can be redrawn; if so, then how can we maintain the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong? Everyone is equal before the law, no one can act above the law, and no offenders can evade legal sanctions for any reason. We hope that the SAR government and the judiciary will effectively fulfil the sacred duty of maintaining the rule of law while strictly enforcing laws and ensuring fair administration of justice. We must not make concessions to law-violating behaviour. Society as a whole should also severely condemn such behaviour, which clearly touches on the bottom line of the rule of law.
The third issue is about development, which is Hong Kong’s top priority. Hong Kong’s international status is determined by its economic status. The people’s quality of life is inseparable from the development of the territory. All walks of life in Hong Kong must have a sense of urgency, and understand that opportunities once lost are lost for good, and that if we stand still, we risk falling behind. Hong Kong people should focus their attention on economic development, on improving livelihoods and on enhancing across-the-board competitiveness. Disputes do Hong Kong no good and only harm the city’s efficiency and economy. They waste time and can jeopardise the economy and thus people’s livelihood.
The second point is about patience. The Hong Kong SAR government has been established for less than 19 years. There has been no precedent for the “one country, two systems” practice. All aspects of the system and institutional mechanisms need to be refined, and some deep-seated contradictions would gradually emerge after some time. There are objective reasons for this. Some problems have surfaced in recent years after remaining somewhat latent. Some problems are new, and can by no means be resolved overnight. We cannot become doubtful about, or lose confidence in or even deny “one country, two systems”. There are no obstacles that cannot be overcome. We have the wisdom and the abilities to resolve all problems that arise during the implementation of “one country, two systems”.
Hong Kong is a pluralistic society, and there are different voices in society. This is normal. We respect the “one country, two systems” principle and the Basic Law, and we are willing to listen to opinions and suggestions from all sides in society as long as they are for the good of Hong Kong. We can also carry out exchanges through different channels. Rational and reasonable communication can reduce or even eliminate differences, and foster consensus.
What is sure is that the three chief executives of the SAR government have done a lot of good work for the development of Hong Kong. Leung Chun-ying, the incumbent chief executive, and the SAR administration led by him have identified the problems. The policies and measures being implemented by them with the aim of promoting the city’s economic and social development are taking effect, and have achieved some success. As long as all sectors of Hong Kong have the spirit to “set aside disagreements in order to pursue our goals together to realise our dream” [Editor’s note: a line taken from the song Below the Lion Rock], and jointly support the chief executive and the SAR government in their policy implementation according to law, working together, we will gain excellent results and enter a new stage of “one country, two systems”.
The third point is to have confidence. First, we must have confidence in the undertaking of “one country, two systems”. There are three reasons for that. First, “one country, two systems” is the country’s primary national policy, and is a strategic choice rather than a short-term solution. It will not be changed. Second, “one country, two systems” has a solid public opinion foundation, and is the main common denominator connecting the mainland and Hong Kong, and thus should not be changed. Third, evidence obtained since the 1997 handover has proven that “one country, two systems” is feasible, and is a proven good system with no need to be changed. In future, we still need to adhere to the principle, so that Hong Kong can continue to play its unique role.
The remarks that the mainland government intends to “mainlandise” Hong Kong and even turn “one country, two systems” into “one country, one system” are completely groundless. The majority of Hong Kong compatriots hope that “one country, two system” can continue as it is, and this is in the best interest of the nation. The central government will continue to steadfastly implement the system, and the Hong Kong community can rest assured of that.
Zhang Dejiang is chairman of the National People’s Congress. This is an excerpt, translated from Chinese, of his speech during a banquet at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai, Hong Kong, on Wednesday