“One Coun­try, Two Sys­tems”: An Ex­per­i­ment in State Gov­er­nance

China Pictorial (English) - - Contents - Text by Tian Fei­long “

July 1, 2017 marks the 20th an­niver­sary of Hong Kong’s re­turn to China. The “one coun­try, two sys­tems” pol­icy in Hong Kong has reached its mid­dle pe­riod. Across China, dis­cus­sions, re­search and com­mem­o­ra­tive ac­tiv­i­ties have been held. The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity, while rec­og­niz­ing the ef­fec­tive gov­er­nance of China’s cen­tral govern­ment and Hong Kong’s achieve­ments over the past two decades, is ea­gerly spec­u­lat­ing on the con­crete plans and poli­cies the cen­tral govern­ment will in­tro­duce for Hong Kong in the years to come.

When dis­cussing the gov­er­nance of Hong Kong, as well as pay­ing at­ten­tion to whether Hong Kong can con­tinue to ex­er­cise a high de­gree of au­ton­omy, the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity places more fo­cus on the dy­namic as­sess­ment of the cer­tainty and ra­tio­nal­iza­tion of China’s state acts. For the past two decades, un­der the frame­work of the “one coun­try, two sys­tems” prin­ci­ple and the Ba­sic Law of the Hong Kong Spe­cial Ad­min­is­tra­tive Re­gion of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China (here­inafter Ba­sic Law”), China’s cen­tral govern­ment has fully re­spected and sup­ported Hong Kong’s high de­gree of au­ton­omy, safe­guarded its pros­per­ity and sta­bil­ity, and con­trib­uted to and main­tained the over­all author­ity and or­der of the Ba­sic Law in ac­cor­dance with the law, serv­ing as a faith­ful and qual­i­fied in­sti­tu­tional guardian.

For China, prac­tice of the “one coun­try, two sys­tems” prin­ci­ple in Hong Kong is much more than a sim­ple management ex­per­i­ment. So­cial­ist China has re­tained a lo­cal cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem for a long time and has ac­tively sup­ported and man­aged this sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent ex­is­tence. China has re­sponded to and gen­er­ally met the de­mands of var­i­ous stake­hold­ers at na­tional, lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional lev­els and main­tained the in­ner bal­ance and vi­tal­ity of the “one coun­try, two sys­tems” prin­ci­ple and the Ba­sic Law. All these achieve­ments have been made through hard work. While gov­ern­ing Hong Kong for the past 20 years, China’s cen­tral govern­ment has en­gaged in study and ex­changes with the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity at deeper lev­els and gained an even more com­pre­hen­sive gov­ern­ing and leg­is­lat­ing ca­pac­ity.

Hong Kong’s Re­turn and Gov­er­nance Chal­lenges

In 1842, the Qing Dy­nasty (1644-1911) was de­feated by the United King­dom in the First Opium War (1840-42). The Qing govern­ment was forced to sign the Treaty of Nank­ing with the UK, the first of many un­fair treaties forced on China by for­eign im­pe­ri­al­ist pow­ers in mod­ern times. The treaty granted the ces­sion of Hong Kong Is­land to Bri­tain, from which time Hong Kong was un­der Bri­tish colo­nial rule. At the same time, the count­down to Hong Kong’s re­turn to the moth­er­land be­gan. For China, the suf­fer­ing and mis­ery in­flicted by war was far more than just ces­sion of ter­ri­tory. From then on, the coun­try’s hu­mil­i­at­ing his­tory of more than a cen­tury over­shad­owed the loss of land.

From 1842 to 1997, Hong Kong faced a trial of strength be­tween two his­tor­i­cal times and two iden­ti­ties. The first was a his­tor­i­cal view of Bri­tish colo­nial rule. By fa­cil­i­tat­ing strong in­ter­na­tional trade and gov­er­nance of com­mon law, Bri­tain be­came a global power in mod­ern times. Based on this sys­tem, a more fa­vor­able view of colo­nial his­tory was es­tab­lished. The flip­side saw Hong Kong’s re­turn to the moth­er­land as a vic­tory for China and its peo­ple against the bru­tal semi-colo­nial and semi-feu­dal en­vi­ron­ment that was thrust on China in mod­ern times, and the restora­tion of Hong Kong’s sovereignty af­ter strug­gles of gen­er­a­tions as a road to pros­per­ity. Af­ter two World Wars, Bri­tain suf­fered a de­ci­sive de­cline, and its colo­nial sys­tem col­lapsed. In 1984, China and Bri­tain signed the Joint Dec­la­ra­tion of the Govern­ment of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China and the Govern­ment of the United King­dom of Great Brit- ain and North­ern Ire­land on the Ques­tion of Hong Kong in Beijing, con­firm­ing that the Chi­nese govern­ment would re­sume and ex­er­cise sovereignty over Hong Kong from July 1, 1997. Then, Hong Kong en­tered a 13-year tran­si­tional pe­riod be­fore its re­turn to China. The fac­tors en­abling Hong Kong’s suc­cess­ful re­turn lie not only in the pa­tri­o­tism of Hong Kong com­pa­tri­ots and the vi­sion of a com­mu­nity of shared fu­ture for peo­ple from both Hong Kong and the Chi­nese main­land, but also in China’s strength and al­lur­ing prospects for more re­form and open­ing-up to the out­side world.

On July 1, 1997, Hong Kong re­turned to the moth­er­land, ex­cit­ing the en­tire na­tion. How­ever, some Hong Kong peo­ple’s feel­ings about Bri­tish colo­nial rule and the val­ues and life­styles shaped by Bri­tain’s colo­nial rule were not eas­ily over­come. It is clear that dur­ing the tran­si­tional pe­riod from 1984 to 1997, some Hong Kong peo­ple were un­able to change their feel­ings about Bri­tish colo­nial rule, which had been guid­ing the city for 100 years, and em­brace Hong Kong’s re­turn to the moth­er­land.

Thus, it is un­der­stand­able that some Hong Kong res­i­dents didn’t feel the same emo­tion as peo­ple on the Chi­nese main­land about the restora­tion of sovereignty. Peo­ple within the “two sys­tems” have dif­fer­ent val­ues and po­lit­i­cal cul­tures which can’t be ig­nored, even within one coun­try. Be­sides, due to the var­i­ous la­tent forces and bar­rier mech­a­nisms set by Bri­tain dur­ing Hong Kong’s re­turn to China, the trial of po­lit­i­cal strength be­tween China and Bri­tain didn’t end in 1997, but in­flu­enced the gov­er­nance of Hong Kong long af­ter its re­turn.

As we com­mem­o­rate the 20th an­niver­sary of Hong Kong’s re­turn to China, while sum­ma­riz­ing the Chi­nese cen­tral govern­ment’s achieve­ments in gov­ern­ing Hong Kong, we should also no­tice that the Ba­sic Law might also be fac­ing a sort of “mid-life cri­sis.” The gov­er­nance of Hong Kong cur­rently faces some chal­lenges: The ad­min­is­tra­tive func­tions and acts of the govern­ment of the Hong Kong Spe­cial Ad­min­is­tra­tive Re­gion (HKSAR), as de­fined in the Ba­sic Law, have been re­stricted. Ex­ces­sive lo­cal­iza­tion of ju­ris­dic­tion has hurt some na­tional in­ter­ests. Some op­po­si­tion forces in Hong Kong have shown a ten­dency to­wards rad­i­cal­iza­tion and vi­o­lence, di­rectly threat­en­ing the or­der and se­cu­rity of the Ba­sic Law. Hong Kong’s so­cial con­tra­dic­tions and im­proper pub­lic poli­cies on peo­ple’s liveli­hoods have led to lo­cal dis­sat­is­fac­tion and dis­ap­point­ment.

Gov­ern­ing Hong Kong: Set­ting out with Ease

China’s cen­tral govern­ment has re­sponded dy­nam­i­cally, fol­low­ing up and

di­ag­nos­ing the ma­jor prob­lems and evo­lu­tion­ary trends in the gov­er­nance of Hong Kong. It has pro­vided re­sponses in line with its con­sti­tu­tional role and shoul­dered its re­spon­si­bil­ity to guard the “one coun­try, two sys­tems” pol­icy and the Ba­sic Law.

Based on some poli­cies and re­lated state­ments is­sued by China’s cen­tral govern­ment on Hong Kong and Ma­cao in 2017, sev­eral pre­dic­tions have been made about the Chi­nese cen­tral govern­ment’s fu­ture plans for gov­ern­ing Hong Kong:

The “one coun­try, two sys­tems” pol­icy will re­main un­changed for a long time. In quite a few doc­u­ments and on many for­mal oc­ca­sions, China’s cen­tral govern­ment has pointed out that the “one coun­try, two sys­tems” pol­icy and the ba­sic laws, the frame­work of gov­ern­ing Hong Kong and Ma­cao, will main­tain sta­ble for the long term. No ma­jor in­sti­tu­tional re­forms will be car­ried out, and greater im­por­tance will be placed on pol­icy re­fine­ment and ad­just­ment as well as more com­plete law en­force­ment. These moves have shown the con­ti­nu­ity and strate­gic willpower of the cen­tral govern­ment’s pol­icy to­wards Hong Kong and pro­vided crit­i­cal con­sti­tu­tional and pol­icy foun­da­tions for the long-term sta­bil­ity and pros­per­ity of Hong Kong and Ma­cao.

The prin­ci­ple of “gov­ern­ing Hong Kong in ac­cor­dance with the law” will be fur­ther con­sol­i­dated. Poli­cies and re­lated state­ments is­sued by China’s cen­tral govern­ment on gov­ern­ing Hong Kong in 2017 high­light the gen­eral trend of the rule of law in Hong Kong. Greater im­por­tance has been placed on the fol­low­ing as­pects: First, China’s Con­sti­tu­tion and the Ba­sic Law form a joint law ba­sis for the gov­er­nance of Hong Kong. In this con­text, the le­gal mold­ing and in­te­gra­tion ef­fect of the Con­sti­tu­tion on the Ba­sic Law should be reaf­firmed and high­lighted. Sec­ond, the Ba­sic law’s role in ad­min­is­tra­tive guid­ance should be reaf­firmed and the cen­tral govern­ment will sup­port HKSAR’S chief ex­ec­u­tive and its govern­ment to carry out ad­min­is­tra­tive func­tions in ac­cor­dance with the law. Third, within the Ba­sic Law, sep­a­ratism in Hong Kong vi­o­lates the Con­sti­tu­tion and causes great dam­age to so­ci­ety. The prin­ci­ple of “gov­ern­ing Hong Kong in ac­cor­dance with the Con­sti­tu­tion and the Ba­sic Law” has be­come the com­mon gov­er­nance pol­icy for China’s cen­tral govern­ment to gov­ern Hong Kong as well as for Hong Kong’s self-gov­er­nance. China’s cen­tral govern­ment has made it clear that it will trans­form from the pre­vi­ous prac­tice of “gov­ern­ing Hong Kong through con­sul­ta­tion” to “gov­ern­ing Hong Kong in ac­cor­dance with the law.”

Co­or­di­nat­ing the five devel­op­ment goals for Hong Kong will in­vig­o­rate its so­cial re­con­struc­tion. China’s 2017 re­port on the work of the govern­ment em­pha­sized the “five goals” for Hong Kong’s gov­er­nance and so­cial devel­op­ment, in­clud­ing ex­er­cis­ing law-based gov­er­nance, grow­ing the econ­omy, im­prov­ing peo­ple’s well­be­ing, ad­vanc­ing democ­racy and pro­mot­ing so­cial har­mony. The five goals have com­bined var­i­ous top­ics in­clud­ing the rule of law, po­lit­i­cal sys­tems, eco­nom­ics and so­ci­ety to­gether. In re­cent years, the gov­er­nance of Hong Kong has slid into traps of so­cial move­ments, po- lit­i­cal re­form, and even sep­a­ratism, re­sult­ing in huge losses in strength and an eco­nomic slow­down. Hong Kong ur­gently needs to over­come the “over-politi­ciza­tion” trap, ac­tively pro­mote eco­nomic devel­op­ment, blaze a new trail for devel­op­ment and make new con­tri­bu­tions to the moth­er­land. The author­ity of the rule of law and the ra­tio­nal­ity of or­der are the ba­sis for Hong Kong’s pros­per­ity and sta­bil­ity. While eco­nomic devel­op­ment and peo­ple’s well­be­ing are the key points in Hong Kong’s re­con­struc­tion, they serve as im­por­tant fac­tors for Hong Kong to re­ju­ve­nate and heal the di­vide.

Re­gional in­te­gra­tion will be­come the new strate­gic di­rec­tion lead­ing Hong Kong’s eco­nomic devel­op­ment. In re­cent years, China’s cen­tral govern­ment has been con­sid­er­ing and ac­tively pro­mot­ing its na­tional strat­egy, with closer co­op­er­a­tion and in­te­gra­tion be­tween Guang­dong Prov­ince, Hong Kong and Ma­cao as a key break­through. The ba­sic de­sign of the strat­egy is to help Hong Kong over­come its ge­o­graph­i­cal lim­i­ta­tions and im­merse into the na­tional sys­tem to cure the iso­la­tion­ism ad­vo­cated by Hong Kong sep­a­ratists. Us­ing eco­nomic devel­op­ment to solve po­lit­i­cal prob­lems ex­hibits the core wis­dom of the “Chi­nese model.” Clearly, Hong Kong so­ci­ety con­trasts with main­land so­ci­ety in many ways. The im­prove­ment of the econ­omy and peo­ple’s well­be­ing and re­gional in­te­gra­tion of the econ­omy can­not

com­pletely re­place Hong Kong’s goals of de­moc­ra­ti­za­tion and self-ad­just­ment. Thus, col­lab­o­ra­tive gov­er­nance is even more nec­es­sary to re­al­ize bet­ter re­sults.

Hong Kong and Ma­cao’s unique ad­van­tages, sta­tus and func­tion in China’s na­tional strate­gies, es­pe­cially in the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive, de­mand more at­ten­tion. Dy­namic mu­tual ben­e­fits should be used to en­sure and safe­guard the just foun­da­tion of the “one coun­try, two sys­tems” pol­icy. The high de­gree of au­ton­omy for both Hong Kong and Ma­cao is nei­ther an in­nate right, nor granted by the colonists. It is a po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion by China’s top leg­is­la­ture in the over­all in­ter­ests of the coun­try’s mod­ern­iza­tion, as well as its re­form and openingup. Ac­cord­ing to the com­plete logic chain of the “one coun­try, two sys­tems” prin­ci­ple, by main­tain­ing the pros­per­ity and sta­bil- ity of Hong Kong and Ma­cao, China’s cen­tral govern­ment has the valid goal of safe­guard­ing and sup­port­ing the coun­try’s fu­ture devel­op­ment. In this sense, Hong Kong should not only en­joy the high de­gree of au­ton­omy and var­i­ous rights granted by the Ba­sic Law, but also shoul­der the re­spon­si­bil­ity and pro­mote the po­lit­i­cal ethics of safe­guard­ing na­tional sovereignty, se­cu­rity, and devel­op­ment in­ter­ests. By ac­tively par­tic­i­pat­ing in re­gional in­te­gra­tion and con­struc­tion of the Belt and Road, Hong Kong can be­come an ex­am­ple of the ac­cu­rate and com­plete prac­tice of the “one coun­try, two sys­tems” pol­icy, and pro­vide food for thought for the “re- ed­u­ca­tion of ci­ti­zens” in Hong Kong and Ma­cao.

For the past two decades, un­der the frame­work of the “one coun­try, two sys­tems” prin­ci­ple, both China’s cen­tral govern­ment and Hong Kong so­ci­ety have re­mained ded­i­cated to the pros­per­ity and sta­bil­ity of Hong Kong, eco­nomic in­ter­ac­tion be­tween the Chi­nese main­land and Hong Kong, and progress on the rule of law, as well as Hong Kong’s so­cial trans­for­ma­tion un­der the frame­work of the Ba­sic Law. While many achieve­ments have been made, chal­lenges from var­i­ous realms need to be ad­dressed. At present, Hong Kong’s gov­er­nance has en­tered a new phase, which ur­gently re­quires both China’s cen­tral govern­ment and Hong Kong to con­duct ob­jec­tive ret­ro­spec­tion, sum­ma­riza­tion and in­tro­spec­tion on the past 20 years. Only this will fa­cil­i­tate a brighter fu­ture for Hong Kong. The au­thor is an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor with the Law School of Beijing Univer­sity of Aero­nau­tics and Astro­nau­tics ( BUAA), ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Le­gal Stud­ies of the “One Coun­try, Two Sys­tems” un­der BUAA and a coun­cil mem­ber of the Chi­nese As­so­ci­a­tion of Hong Kong & Ma­cao Stud­ies.

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