Recently, many people have asked me, in private, why Beijing has suddenly become so hawkish. When pressed for proof, they always quote chairman of the National People's Congress Wu Bangguo , who said on June 6 that Hong Kong's 'high degree of autonomy is not intrinsic, but is authorised by the central government. The special administrative region shall have as much power as authorised by the central government. There is no so-called residual power.'
This statement seemed to emphasise the central government's authority in limiting the SAR's power. Of course, my friends all agree, this power has been there from the handover. But why stress it now? Is it because of the discussions on constitutional reform?
Incidentally, I heard Mr Wu's entire speech. Afterwards when interviewed for a response, I reminded reporters that it was necessary to take the speech as a whole. Knowing the Hong Kong media, I was not surprised to see that the issue was distorted.
So, allow me to reveal, with a translation of the paragraph from the Chinese text, what Mr Wu actually said: 'First, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region's high degree of autonomy originates from the central government. China is a unitary state. [The SAR's] high degree of autonomy is not intrinsic, but is authorised by the central government ... These stipulations (Article 2 and Article 12 of the Basic Law) have clarified the legal status of the [SAR], specifying that it is under the country's total sovereignty. The [SAR] shall have as much power as authorised by the central government. If not specifically defined, the central government may grant further power according to Article 20 of the Basic Law. There is no so-called residual power. From this perspective, the Basic Law is an enabling law. A comprehensive and accurate understanding of this point is crucial to ensure the thorough implementation of 'one country, two systems' and the Basic Law, and the proper handling of the relationship between the HKSAR and the central government.'
From this context, the message is that Beijing is not limiting Hong Kong's power, but is always ready to accommodate a request for further authorisation. I do not know whether you could call this statement by Mr Wu dovish, but it is definitely not hawkish, as the mainstream media tried to portray it. It tells us the true meaning of 'one country, two systems' as it is, and with a bit of paternal affection.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association has, over recent years, kept claiming that there is less freedom for the local press. It has never come up with any concrete evidence of this, except an assessment among its members of a growing feeling of self-censorship. Now, I can give these people a piece of indisputable evidence: yes, there is self-censorship, but it is directed against the central government and intended to create fear and hatred among readers.
This is especially ironic when you take into account Mr Wu's comments that 'a comprehensive and accurate understanding of this point is crucial to ensure the thorough implementation of 'one country, two systems' and the Basic Law, and the proper handling of the relationship between the HKSAR and the central government'.
Our media simply refuses to understand this very important point. Now, perhaps my friends will begin to appreciate why, even 10 years after the handover, central government officials are still trying hard to remind Hongkongers what the exact meaning of 'one country, two systems' is, and how their well-intentioned messages still get filtered and distorted by our 'free' press.
With such an irresponsible and malicious mainstream media, we poor Hongkongers are being misled and taken into very dangerous terrain - pitching us against the central government. It is time to stand up and say 'no' to disinformation.
Lau Nai-keung is a Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference delegate