A man sets up his camera in the Victoria Peak area to photograph Hong Kong's skyline. Picture: Jae C. Hong/AP
A man sets up his camera in the Victoria Peak area to photograph Hong Kong's skyline. Picture: Jae C. Hong/AP

China implements ‘democracy with Hong Kong characteristics’

By Opinion Time of article published Mar 15, 2021

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Helmo Preuss

In the same way that ‘a free market economy with Chinese characteristics’ has lifted millions of Chinese out of poverty since 1978, so the Chinese government believes that laws aimed at improving the electoral System of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will result in ‘democracy with Hong Kong characteristics’ that will prevent the civil disturbances of 2019.

In July 1997 Hong Kong passed from British colonial rule back to rule by the Chinese people.

That meant that the constitution of the People’s Republic of China and the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China jointly formed the constitutional basis of the Hong Kong SAR under a policy called ‘One Country, Two Systems’.

Under this policy, the people of Hong Kong administered the region with a high degree of autonomy, supporting the development of democracy in the SAR and guaranteeing the exercise of democratic rights by residents of the SAR in accordance with the law.

When Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping implemented economic reforms in December 1978 to create “a free market economy with Chinese characteristics”, few people would have predicted that in less than a half-a-century the number of Chinese billionaires would exceed the number of American billionaires.

In 2020, the number of Chinese billionaires reached 878, according to the Hurun Rich List 2020, which tracks wealth in China, while in the US, there were only 788 billionaires as measured by Wealth-X. This is a remarkable achievement in only 42 years.

In June 1984, Deng said that there must be “some requirements or qualifications with regard to the administration of Hong Kong affairs by the people of Hong Kong. It must be required that patriots form the main body of administrators”. According to him: “A patriot is one who respects the Chinese nation, sincerely supports the motherland’s resumption of exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong, and wishes not to impair Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability.”

Chinese officials believe that the rioting and turbulence that occurred in the Hong Kong in 2019 was sthe work of destabilizing forces and radical localists in Hong Kong who openly called for “Hong Kong independence” in conflict with the policy of One Country, Two Systems, which was also implemented in Macau, when that region’s sovereignty was transferred from Portugal to China in December 1999.

The disturbances of 2019 in Hong Kong put China’s national sovereignty, security and development interests into serious jeopardy and severely disrupted the social stability of the Hong Kong SAR.

In the Chinese officials’ view, such disruptions to social stability need to be resolutely opposed, and consequently forceful measures should be taken to prevent and defuse risks arising there and ensure harmonious relations within all sectors of Hong Kong society.

It was to return to the previous 22 years of peaceful co-existence that the Chinese government decided to improve the electoral system and remove existing institutional deficiencies and risks to ensure the administration of Hong Kong by Hong Kong people.

This in turn will ensure effective and law-based administration in Hong Kong and ensure the continued implementation of the One Country, Two Systems policy.

The UK said the proposed changes would undermine the former British colony’s rights and freedoms in violation of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, which stipulated the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents after the end of UK rule.

UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab said the proposed amendments are the “latest step by Beijing to hollow out the space for democratic debate in Hong Kong, contrary to the promises made by China itself. This can only further undermine confidence and trust in China living up to its international responsibilities and legal obligations.”

The US and other countries have also condemned the charging of 47 opposition politicians and activists in Hong Kong with subversion under the national security law, which came into effect in the SAR in June 2020.

They are accused of conspiring to commit subversion by organising or participating in a primary election for the since-postponed Legislative Council election.

The elections were initially scheduled for 2020, but were postponed due to concerns that it would lead to numerous Covid-19 infections. If convicted the activists could face life imprisonment.

* Preuss is an economist at Forecaster Ecosa.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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