EXCLUSIVE: Hong Kong Legco chief says urgent review needed on Beijing’s enactment of ‘one country, two systems’

South China Morning Post
Date: 30 August, 2015
UPDATED : Monday, 31 August, 2015
By: Gary Cheung and Tony Cheung

Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing has called for an urgent review of Beijing’s

Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing said reviewing the implementation of the guiding principle 'one country, two systems' was a task which brooked no delay. Photo: Nora Tam
Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing said reviewing the implementation of the guiding principle ‘one country, two systems’ was a task which brooked no delay. Photo: Nora Tam

implementation of the “one country, two systems” policy for Hong Kong, at the same time warning of its demise if the central government interferes more frequently in the running of the city.

In a hard-hitting interview with the South China Morning Post, Tsang suggested the winner of the 2017 chief executive election should set up a platform comprising representatives from various sectors to discuss the future of the governance formula and how to restart the political reform process.

The veteran Beijing loyalist, who has been uncharacteristically critical of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying since his brother Tsang Tak-sing was removed from the post of home affairs minister, said he was surprised and disappointed that the central government had not conducted a thorough review of the implementation of “one country, two systems” in the past 18 years, particularly in regard to serious setbacks like the failed electoral reform.

“The documents of the central government and state leaders’ speeches on Hong Kong only emphasised the achievements of ‘one country, two systems,’” he said. “But there are many problems exposed in the implementation of the concept in the past 18 years. Why did they happen? How should we resolve them?”

In a belated but surprisingly critical response to the controversial white paper issued by the State Council in June last year, Tsang said it had not reviewed the implementation of “one country, two systems” but only stressed the central government’s “comprehensive jurisdiction” over Hong Kong.

The document has sparked fears in the city that the high degree of autonomy Hong Kong enjoys will be undermined.

Legco chief Jasper Tsang (above) has been uncharacteristically critical of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (foreground). Photo: Dickson Lee

“Sending these messages to Hongkongers in such an unruly and unsophisticated manner has unavoidably sparked backlash among some Hong Kong people,” Tsang said.

Whether “one country, two systems” would continue after 2047 would hinge on what was going to happen in the next 32 years, he added, referring to the time left before the end of the 50-year lifespan of the formula.

“If Hong Kong is on the decline and the central government steps in on Hong Kong’s internal affairs more frequently, resulting in Beijing governing Hong Kong directly, it could spell the demise of ‘one country, two systems.’”

He cited the failure to enact national security legislation in 2003 and implement the national education curriculum in 2012 as examples of setbacks in the implementation of the concept under which Hong Kong enjoys autonomy.

“For people living in Hong Kong since the handover, it’s a matter of fact that the difficulties facing governance in the city are much bigger than the first few years of the handover and the situation is getting worse,” he said.

The veteran politician stressed that reviewing the implementation of the guiding principle was a task which brooked no delay.

“There is a need for the chief executive elected in 2017 to set up a platform to discuss the future of ‘one country, two systems’ after 2047 and how to relaunch the electoral reform process,” he said.

The Legco chief suggested the platform should have a status similar to that of the 180-strong Basic Law Consultative Committee in the mid-1980s that was endorsed by Beijing.

Tsang noted that in his report delivered at the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party in October 2007, former president Hu Jintao said “a major task the Party faces in running the country in the new circumstances” was to “ensure long-term prosperity and stability in Hong Kong and Macau”.

“But I have seen no systematic study on how to maintain Hong Kong’s prosperity since 2007,” Tsang said.

But at the same time he pointed out that Hong Kong people should recognise the political reality that the city’s importance for the country’s reform and opening up to the outside world did not compare with three decades ago, adding that Hongkongers should avoid making moves which would unnecessarily arouse suspicion from Beijing.

Tsang said incidents like Hong Kong football fans booing the national anthem at matches against Bhutan and Maldives in qualifiers in June would not help build trust between the city and the mainland.

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