Thursday, December 12, 2013, 07:45
Upholding the principle
By Jason Kuai

The opposition camp has complained that the consultation document on constitutional reform released by the Hong Kong SAR Government included too many comments from central government officials about constitutional reform in Hong Kong.

But as Chief Secretary for Administration Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said, discussions about constitutional reform require an understanding of jurisprudence. She explained that comments by central government officials familiar with relevant laws in the consultation document were intended to clarify these issues.

Secretary for Justice Yuen Kwok-keung also stressed that the central government ultimately had responsibility for implementing constitutional reform in Hong Kong.

He said the opposition’s objections to comments by central government officials in the consultation document was actually a breach of the “One Country, Two Systems” principle.

Yuen said the opposition parties were defying the central government’s authority over the implementation of universal suffrage. They were, therefore, alienating themselves from Hong Kong’s constitutional development as a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, he said.

They also showed that their real intentions were to disrupt the next Chief Executive election. Their goal in seeking autonomy for Hong Kong is really to deny China its sovereignty over the territory. They need to realize that everyone in society has to adhere firmly to the “One Country, Two Systems” principle during the public consultation.

Discussions about implementing universal suffrage also have to respect the Basic Law. According to the Basic Law, the central government is not only responsible for, but totally committed to, implementing universal suffrage in Hong Kong.

In the 16 years since the handover, it has been common to hear people say they prefer increased autonomy to protecting sovereignty. Efforts to separate Hong Kong from the country, by citing differences between capitalism and socialism, have also been common. The opposition parties’ rejection of comments by central government officials in the consultation document, is just their latest act of defiance of the “One Country, Two Systems” principle.

Earlier attempts to challenge the principle included the Hong Kong Bar Association’s (HKBA) demand for “a national right to self-determination” in 2002, when Civic Party leader Alan Leong Ka-kit was head of the HKBA. Slogans like “give the government back to the people” were made during mass demonstrations on July 1, 2003. Other examples include the “five-constituency referendum” staged by the Civic Party and the League of Social Democrats in 2010 and actions advocating “Hong Kong independence” in the past two years or so.

The most obvious example of the opposition camp’s intentions to challenge the “One Country, Two System” principle and deny the central government its constitutional authority is the illegal “Occupy Central” campaign. This shows that the opposition is trying to seize control of the administration of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong residents never had the right to choose a leader during more than 150 years of colonial rule. All Hong Kong governors were appointed by London. It was not until the 1980s that the British government began introducing a more representative legislature as part of its strategy of “pitting the Chinese against themselves”. The British had ulterior motives with their “democratic development” of Hong Kong. It was really prompted by the belief that China would resume sovereign rule over Hong Kong no matter what.

Hong Kong residents only became masters of their own house after the handover — thanks to the “One Country Two Systems” principle. The idea of “Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong” as well as having unprecedented autonomy was only established by the central government. This, of course, includes the right to vote for the leader of the government.

The central government has always been committed to advancing democracy in Hong Kong with the ultimate goal of elections by universal suffrage. Otherwise, it would not have written this into the Basic Law when it was not mentioned during the Sino-British Joint Declaration. A timetable for implementing universal suffrage in Hong Kong would not have occurred without decisions by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.

Anti-central government rhetoric or actions advocating “Hong Kong independence” will not succeed as long as the society adheres to the “One Country, Two Systems” principle. Patriotic citizens in Hong Kong must uphold this principle. They must protect national sovereignty because Hong Kong’s future stability depends on it.

The author is executive president of the International Strategic Studies Society and founding chairman of Wisdom Hong Kong.