Let's bridge the divide to be one country

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 October, 2015, 12:57am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 October, 2015, 12:57am

There is no better occasion to bring up the issue of "one country, two systems" than National Day. Addressing an official reception on October 1, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said the formula enabled Hong Kong to enjoy the advantages of "two systems" as well as "one country". But he said the people, in particular politicians and youngsters, needed to gain a comprehensive understanding of the country's development from different perspectives.

The cultivation of national identity and patriotism is given in many countries. But our reunification with China after more than a century of British colonial rule makes the process more complicated. The emphasis on preserving the city's way of life in the early years means little effort has been made to engage the mainland. As we strive to defend the two systems, alienation deepens further. The chief executive is right in stressing the need of better understanding of the country.

This is easier said than done, though. Politically, the level of distrust between Beijing and the local community has soared following the Occupy protests and the rejection of electoral reform. This is reflected in recent opinion surveys by the University of Hong Kong, in which 42 to 47 per cent of respondents expressed distrust in the central government, the highest since the handover. Socially, the cultural divide with the mainland and the influx of tourists from the north continue to fuel tension and conflict. The prevailing atmosphere is not conducive to fostering mutual exchange and understanding.

It is good to hear that the government is committed as ever in facilitating cross-border communication. While there are more exchange programmes for youngsters to see for themselves the development on the mainland, access for politicians is restricted. Some pan-democrat lawmakers and activists are still barred from entering the mainland. There is still a long way to go before hostility and antagonism can be replaced by trust and cooperation.

For "one country, two systems" to be successfully implemented, a common understanding of its true meaning is essential. The formula gives as much benefit as responsibility. As we seek to tap the opportunities arising from the rise of the country, we also need to better understand its development; and be ready to contribute to its success. Only through exchange and understanding can we bridge the divide and move ahead as one country while preserving the two systems.