Beijing White Paper 2014

It's crunch time as white paper waved like red flag to bull

Regaining trust will be worth the effort and lead city and China towards a better future

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 June, 2014, 2:43am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 June, 2014, 2:43am

Today is the start of a pop vote for a civil referendum, organised by the Occupy Central movement and the Alliance for True Democracy, on the controversial subject of civic nomination for the election of Hong Kong's chief executive in 2017.

Ten days ago, China's State Council issued an unprecedented white paper on the implementation of the "one country, two systems" in Hong Kong. While focusing on the Basic Law, the white paper sends a clear message that China has comprehensive jurisdiction over Hong Kong.

Early on in the paper there is a requirement for government officials responsible for running Hong Kong, including those in the judiciary, to be patriotic. Those who know Oscar Wilde's saying "patriotism is the virtue of the vicious" have, no doubt, had a private giggle over this.

The white paper is waving like a flaming red flag before the proverbial Hong Kong bull.

In protest, luminaries in the pan-democratic camp are calling for its withdrawal. The Bar Association has also stated its worries over compromising judicial independence.

So it's crunch time. A standoff is inevitable. December will see the 30th Anniversary of the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984.

This Sino-British pact includes a triple mantra of "one country, two systems" with "Hong Kong people running Hong Kong" and enjoying "a high degree of autonomy". The brilliance of this triple mantra is that it cuts through the flimflam of the systemic differences between communist China and capitalist Hong Kong to make it possible for a reunion under Chinese sovereignty.

But it cuts both ways. Like a tripod, you knock one leg off, and the whole thing topples.

Lest it be forgotten, Hong Kong is a unique city, with a unique historical and bi-cultural background. We pride ourselves on our values. We treasure freedom and the rule of law, upheld by a vibrant press, an elected legislature, an independent judiciary, a meritocratic civil service and professionally dedicated disciplined services.

As one of the four Asian Dragons, we can look anyone in the eye and have much to offer to the world and, of course, China. With China's emerging status as a world power, we can benefit from its economic success as well.

A successful implementation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration should mean a successful partnership between China and Hong Kong in tolerance and trust.

Trust is the true glue to link hearts and minds, but it appears this trust is missing.

It takes time to establish this trust and some say it can take 50 years. If so, we are just one-third down the timeline.

Taking stock of Hong Kong today - warts and all and protests notwithstanding - might be painful, but it allows us to move ahead to a better future.

Elizabeth Wong Chien Chi-lien was secretary for health and welfare from 1990 to 1994 and a legislative councillor from 1995 to 1997