My Take

Two systems much better than just one

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 June, 2015, 1:45am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 June, 2015, 9:01am

I once worked as a substitute court reporter. The experience gave me a whole new perspective on our much-touted jury system.

In one case, the coroner instructed the jury that they only had three options to choose from in their verdict. Simple enough, you would think, that even five-year-olds could understand. But after a long deliberation, the jury returned and their foreman announced that they had decided on a fourth -non-existent - option, whereupon the embarrassed and angry judge dismissed them.

Somehow I was reminded of this case while watching student activists from several universities burn a copy of the Basic Law on stage during a June 4 rally. I am still scratching my head as to the symbolic significance of their action. If, as they said, they wanted to amend Article 45 on the way the chief executive is elected, shouldn't they just tear out the relevant page to burn? You wonder if the saying - throw the baby out with the bathwater - means anything to those youngsters?

It's more likely, though, they are unhappy about the constitution as a whole. What does the Basic Law signify most? Four words: one country, two systems. Clearly the students have beef with it. As prominent pro-democracy commentator Wong On-yin wrote in the Economic Journal, in response to the burning: "What's the big deal if we reject 'one country, two systems'?"

Actually, it is a big deal. Think about the real-life consequences of such a rejection. Those who reject "one country, two systems" presumably also reject "one country, one system". What does that leave you? Well, it's independence, or such a high degree of autonomy that it amounts to de facto independence, perhaps a la Taiwan. But even our pampered youngsters have denied they want independence. Even they know the path of independence is one of tears and blood, from which nothing good would come.

So what other options do they have? Like the jury I mentioned, they appear to seek a non-existent fourth option. The reality is that nothing provokes Beijing's paranoia more than such rejectionist talks. If you reject "one country, two systems", you are encouraging Beijing to impose "one country, one system" in Hong Kong. Thanks for nothing, kids!