Compromise with Beijing now or suffer later

Hong Kong’s intransigence on enacting a national security law means reforms on the political and economic fronts are also being held back. Isn’t it time we met the central government half way?

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 April, 2018, 2:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 April, 2018, 1:59am

You can call Wang Zhimin and Yang Yirui all kinds of names, but they are just messengers.

The liaison office director and deputy commissioner of the foreign ministry office in Hong Kong said the city needed a national security law while hitting out at local activists for “colluding with external forces” and challenging China’s sovereignty.

“Hong Kong is the only place in the world without a national security legislation,” Wang said. “It’s a major weakness in the nation’s overall security, and it has a direct impact on residents.”

Criticise all you want but the central government is not a liberal democracy, so you are barking up the wrong tree demanding that it behave like one.

Hong Kong is ‘only place in the world without national security law’, liaison office chief says

But this doesn’t mean Hong Kong can’t negotiate to preserve its freedoms and high degree of autonomy, but to do so only wisely.

Filter out the noise, and the message from the mainland is simple. There can be no political progress or improvement in governance without enacting the national security legislation as outlined in Article 23 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.

You may or may not have electoral reform – a version of which was vetoed by the opposition in 2015 – with Article 23 legislation. But you will never have electoral reform without it.

We can maintain the status quo for a long time while the mainland and the rest of the world move on. Shenzhen will soon be a bigger economy, if it is not already, than Hong Kong’s. I know young activists think time is on their side because they are young now. Actually, it is not on our side, but the mainland’s.

Beijing is perfectly willing to take back a third-rate, fractured city in 2047. You can moan bitterly then that it will have destroyed a great city created by the British colonialists. But who will care by then, when China will have become the world’s largest economy?

Calling for an end to communist rule in China ‘is a crime against Hong Kong’

Or the opposition can drop its opposition to Article 23. In exchange, demand Beijing relaxes its restricted framework on electoral reform and accelerate the pace of reform for both the chief executive and Legislative Council elections.

The opposition will have to acknowledge that an opposition functions differently in a semi-autonomous city than it would be under a liberal democracy.

We have been stagnating while we were once a vibrant and dynamic city.

We should embrace change, take the plunge and compromise with the central government. That’s how it has to work.