Rights come with responsibilities
Xinhua News Agency on Wednesday published an interview with an official from the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office (HKMAO) of the State Council. It was widely quoted in local media here because the HKMAO official responded to some of the most common questions and complaints raised by Hong Kong and Macao residents working, studying, living or traveling on the mainland, and assured them the central government has been working on resolving those issues one by one. As a matter of fact, some new measures are already in place to benefit Hong Kong and Macao residents on the mainland. This is definitely great news for most Hong Kong and Macao permanent residents, who are by law Chinese citizens and therefore entitled to equal rights anywhere in the country, unless denied by a court of law.
It is no secret that over the years local governments on the mainland have largely followed specific policies that treated permanent residents of the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions quite differently from mainland compatriots in almost all aspects of life when they are on the mainland. Theoretically such practices are questionable to say the least because most permanent residents of the two SARs are Chinese citizens, too, and should not be treated differently without proper cause. Technically, however, Hong Kong and Macao are “special” according to the Basic Law as well as the nation’s Constitution.
It is understood those measures were necessary back when they were introduced, but not anymore now.
That is why the central government has been working on changing that confusing situation in a gradual and orderly fashion. In the coming months or years Hong Kong and Macao permanent residents seeking employment, education and long-term residence or traveling on the mainland should find it easier than before because they will have to go through no more than the same procedures their mainland counterparts do despite their SAR affiliation. It is safe to say people from the two SARs will find significantly more opportunities on the mainland than before, beginning with employment, school places, resident registration and social benefits, such as healthcare and retirement coverage if they live and work there long enough.
Historically Hong Kong residents, like those in other British colonies, never enjoyed equal rights as British citizens did. That was supposed to change when China resumed the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong 20 years ago but did not do so immediately because a “cooling period” was needed to let implementation of “one country, two systems” according to the Basic Law find its groove, so to speak. Now it is evidently time for the “new normal” to set in and Hong Kong residents are encouraged to make full use of it as it unfolds. Naturally, it also requires Hong Kong people to abide by mainland laws when they are there and shoulder their responsibilities as Chinese citizens.