Rights come with re­spon­si­bil­i­ties

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

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.

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