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Xi Jinping

Hong Kong must be assured governing principle still applies

With Xi Jinping’s bid to repeal the two-term limit for the presidency has many people wondering about the city’s future. Hongkongers need to be told that ‘one country, two systems’ will continue

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 March, 2018, 1:42am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 March, 2018, 1:41am

Xi Jinping’s bid to repeal the two-term limit for the presidency has left many Hongkongers wondering about the future. While analysts say the city stands to benefit from a more stable and prosperous Chinese economy under Xi’s strong leadership, assessment on the political front is less upbeat. The public needs to be assured unequivocally that the governing principle of “one country, two systems” will continue to apply.

If the city is seen as enjoying greater autonomy during the initial years of the handover, the 500,000-strong protest on July 1, 2003, marked a remarkable shift, with Beijing becoming more assertive of its authority over the city’s affairs. Increasingly, there has been more emphasis on “one country”, raising concerns there would be less room for “two systems”.

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The perceived tightening is a response to the rise of pro-independence sentiment in recent years. Beijing is understandably concerned if it turns into a movement that threatens sovereignty and national unity; and has taken a series of actions to curb the development.

The public has come to realise that independence is hardly an option. While Beijing is expected to reinforce the recognition of one country, maintaining two systems is just as essential. It is important that the latter is not seen as being eroded at the expense of the former.

It is good that the president has repeatedly stressed that the central government will continue to uphold one country, two systems and the Basic Law. This includes respecting our rule of law, freedoms and a high degree of autonomy enshrined in the Basic Law.

Equally important is the need for Hong Kong to preserve its international appeal while reinventing itself under a modern China. The continuous reforms on the mainland over the past decades mean our roles as middleman are no longer as strong as before. And instead of waiting for economic goodies from the central government as in the past, we have to play a more active role in complementing the national development strategy and seize the opportunities that arise.

It would also do well for the pan-democrats to rethink their tactics in dealing with a strong leader like Xi. Decades of confrontation have proved to be an ineffective way of advancing democracy. While the pressure to enact the national security law under Basic Law Article 23 will only get higher, the quest for universal suffrage cannot be swept aside indefinitely. The two outstanding issues can only be resolved through cooperation and compromise.

One country and two systems are not mutually exclusive. Mutual respect and recognition is the key to bring out the best in the formula for Hong Kong and the country. Hopefully, the best has yet to come.