Respect on both sides essential in name of national development
Directions given by a top Beijing official on projects involving Hong Kong and Macau reflect how under ‘one country, two systems’ those involved should show consideration for each other
Questions have been raised as to whether state policy on Hong Kong and cross-border cooperation has changed. This came after a top mainland official conveyed what were said to be the directions of an unnamed state leader over the “Greater Bay Area” development, the construction of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge and other cooperative efforts.
Whether this signals a major shift in the approach towards Hong Kong affairs remains to be seen, but it is undoubtedly conducive to reinforcing our unique characteristics and strengths under the principle of “one country, two systems”.
The stress on one country while respecting two systems is to be welcomed. This includes fully respecting the views of the governments of the special administrative regions and adopting their proposals in favour of others wherever possible.
In addition to the need to defend the authority of the chief executives, officials must use methods and language that are acceptable to Hong Kong and Macau societies when promoting policies beneficial to the cities. Emphasis has been placed on the need for cross-border projects to adhere to market rules and international standards.
The directions may not seem groundbreaking here. They reflect the values and standards that are expected under our system. That said, what appears to be a given here may not necessarily be so on the mainland. That is why the state leader, widely believed to be Han Zheng, one of seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party, stressed mutual respect and the need to put oneself in the shoes of others. The spirit applies to the Hong Kong government equally. We should reciprocate with respect and understanding of the mainland systems.
Timely as it is, the reference has set the stage for an imminent announcement on the framework of cooperation for the Greater Bay Area, under which the two special administrative regions and neighbouring cities will work together to turn the Pearl River Delta region into one rivalling the San Francisco Bay Area.
There has been growing concern that Hong Kong’s characteristics may be eroded by intensifying integration. The directions have addressed some of the concerns and, hopefully, they will help reduce tension and smooth the development process. It should be remembered the directions were delivered in the context of cross-border cooperation and integration.
While it may sound a refreshing change from the tough rhetoric on sovereignty and national development interests from the north, it would be unrealistic to expect concessions on issues in relation to one country. What is important is that the city is able to maintain its edge while contributing to national development.