Safeguarding our democracy, as China does
This year marks the twenty-fourth anniversary of the return of Hong Kong to China. At the end of the First Opium War in 1842, the Qing Dynasty ceded Hong Kong to the British who were able to expand the territory considerably till 1898.
In that year, Britain obtained a 99-year lease before Hong Kong and surrounding territories were eventually returned to China in 1997.
Under China’s “one country, two systems” policy, Hong Kong, together with a number of other regions, have been able to maintain relative autonomy.
Hong Kong’s Basic Law was introduced as a constitution of the territory though still subject to the supreme law which is the Constitution of China. The territory is said to have been affected by the Asian economic crisis in 1997 but had been relatively stable till 2010.
Since 2010, Hong Kong has seen a consistent rise of protests and there should be little down that foreign interference is indeed at play. In 2010 and 2014, the protests came about by electoral reforms while the 2019 they emanated from the Extradition Law Amendment Bill. All these laws, however, have sought to protect the dignity and sovereignty of Hong Kong and China.
As with the case of the Political Party Funding Act here in South Africa, which among other other seeks to protect our democracy from outside influence, so too China has sought to ensure its sovereignty.
It is in the light of this foreign interference in the last decade that, among other reasons, China’s Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s national legislative arm, voted unanimously to enact the amendments to the Basic Law.
These amendments deal specifically with the election of Hong Kong’s chief executive, a position currently held by Carrie Lam, and the formation and voting procedures within the legislative council of the Hong Kong territory.
According to a China-Africa expert from Rwanda, Gerald Mbanda, the changes to the Basic Law have come at the right time and was “a step in the right direction”.
According to Mbanda, “since 1997, when Hong Kong was returned from being a British colony to where it naturally belonged, anti-China and separatist elements backed by foreign countries found their way into the governing structure of the Special Administrative Region, disrupting peace and order”.
Adhere Cavince, a Kenyan scholar in international relations, expressed his view that “political leadership is the cornerstone of a country’s wellness and progress, and therefore should only be vested in those who hold the strategic interests of a country at heart. This is a universally appreciated fact.”
David Castrillon, a profesor at the School of International Relations at Externado University of Colombia, emphasised that these amendments to the Basic Law was “the surest guarantee of stability and development” in Hong Kong.
“With the amendments to the Basic Law’s annexes,” continued Castrillon, “the principle of ‘one country, two systems’ is fully preserved, allowing Hong Kong patriots to govern themselves, while upholding the fact that Hong Kong is an integral part of China.”
The source of these views expressed by these experts comes from an article in China Daily, titled “Support Widespread for HKSAR Reforms”.
As Africans, we are only too aware of the continuous interference in our domestic politics especially by former colonial masters. Like China, we must be cautious of the neo-colonial tendencies and often overt colonial trends which continue to infiltrate the domestic politics of our countries.
While here in South Africa, the new Political Party Funding Act makes it compulsory to declare where the international funding of political parties comes from and puts a limit to it, it may be time that SA also considers applying the same mechanisms, to safeguard our democracy, to civil society.
* Ronalda Nalumango is the provincial coordinator of the Interim Provincial Committee of the ANC in the Western Cape. She writes in her personal capacity.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL.