Why President Xi has set the record straight
“One country, two systems” is made of two sides exactly in that order, never the other way around. In this respect, upholding the nation’s sovereignty, security and development interests must always come first, followed by maintaining Hong Kong’s long-term prosperity and stability (spoken at the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China). Likewise, the central authorities’ right to maintain direct jurisdiction over Hong Kong according to the Constitution and the Basic Law of the HKSAR always comes first, followed by ensuring Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy (spoken at the 4 th Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the CPC).
The central government’s power and national security are not only what “one country, two systems” is designed to serve but right on top of all other purposes as well. That means they always come before the rest. Xi has put it well — “one country” is the root, as in deep roots sustaining rich foliage; and “one country” is the core, as in a strong core sustaining more branches. Rights always come with responsibilities and in equal measure. One cannot enjoy the assurance and support provided by the country while ignoring national interests, to the point even the national security legislation according to the Article 23 of the Basic Law has been delayed for so many years. Such imbalance between rights and responsibilities cannot last long.
During his visit to Hong Kong in May last year, Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, urged Hong Kong society to “never forget the original intent (of ‘one country, two systems’)”. While Zhang’s words were practically still ringing in our ears, Xi provided in his capacity as head of State the most authoritative definition of “one country, two systems” in which Hong Kong residents must do their best to appreciate. Only when reset to the right course could the ship of “one country, two systems” sail far and smoothly.
The author is a veteran current affairs commentator.