Why are we now, all of a sudden, refighting an old battle that was long settled? Didn't we painstakingly define and lock into place years ago how we differed from the mainland? That's what made it possible for capitalist Hong Kong to be reunited with communist China. Yet here we are, squabbling again over how to balance "one country" with "two systems".
A few so-called Beijing loyalists engaged in loose talk that seemed to suggest we reset the parameters. Is that reason enough for Hongkongers to conclude our freedoms are under threat? I don't know. But nothing good can come of the divisive public debate we're having over it. It's a chicken-and-egg question to ask which comes first - one country or two systems. Neither has extra weight under the terms of the sovereignty transfer. It's a fine balancing act.
That balancing act was given a life of 50 years, after which it becomes just one country. We have already used up 15 of those years. Over the next 35, Hongkongers must mentally and emotionally accept the reality of just one country. Should we make an early start, or do we still have time? Patriots would argue the sooner the better, but those who fear for Hong Kong's freedoms would insist there's no rush.
Yes, there's no rush, but starting early also makes sense. It gives us more time to adjust to the inevitable. What we don't need now are irresponsible remarks which give the impression that Beijing wants to change the balance of "one country, two systems". We've seen too much of that lately from Beijing loyalists. How can you blame the average Hongkonger for fearing that something is afoot?
Before people such as former justice secretary Elsie Leung Oi-see say things that seem to suggest we should quicken our pace towards "one country", she should remember the politically sensitive times we are now in. Hong Kong has just emerged from an emotionally draining debate about national education, which many feared was aimed at brainwashing our children. Surely, now is not the time for Beijing loyalists to talk about changing the legal system, getting rid of foreign judges and making judges include a political element in their rulings?
What really astounded me was Shiu Sin-por essentially saying the government's Central Policy Unit, which he now heads, will become a propaganda tool of the administration to influence public opinion. Has he already forgotten, or did he not learn, the painful lesson of the national education debate, which made clear Hongkongers will fight any attempt at brainwashing? The CPU was created at taxpayers' expense to honestly and independently gauge public opinion about government policies. It was not meant as a tool to tamper with public opinion.
Leung Chun-ying's election as chief executive has already aroused suspicion that, as a loyalist, he is under orders from Beijing to fulfil certain political missions that will erode our way of life. How true that is I don't know. As yet, I don't see an imminent threat to "one country, two systems". The jitters generated by recent foolhardy remarks may be just the growing pains of the inevitability of one country. But the loyalists need to think before they speak.
Michael Chugani is a columnist and TV show host. firstname.lastname@example.org