By Cong Peiying
On April 29, Wang Zhenmin, head of the Legal Department of the central government’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong, said at a seminar that an independence movement has been permeating Hong Kong in recent years and if Hong Kong’s autonomy becomes a tool to confront the central government and threatens China’s sovereignty, then the “two systems” model will not be continued. Much attention has been paid to the reasons behind the unusually strong remarks. What to make of these words? What is the relationship between “one country” and “two systems?”
In recent years, Western countries have approved China’s political, economic and social achievements and their attitudes toward China are becoming positive. A few people in Hong Kong, on the contrary, use rights granted by the “one country, two systems” to vilify and attack the central government and socialism with Chinese characteristics.
The “one country, two systems” model is the guarantee of Hong Kong’s prosperity and development rather than the “source of turmoil” or even “source of insulting China.”
However, a few people in Hong Kong have long been antagonistic toward the central government and the mainland, and they have spared no effort to instigate hostility between the two, which will impair the stability of Hong Kong and the country. Without a solid footing, Hong Kong’s development and stability along with the implementation of “one country, two systems” will not work out.
Wang’s strong comments show the central government’s concerns about separatism permeating Hong Kong and its clear stance on opposing “Hong Kong independence.” In recent years, independence movements have spread in Hong Kong society and even reached schools and workplaces, pushing Hong Kong to confront the central government.
But, the central government will never allow Hong Kong to claim independence in the name of “two systems.” Otherwise, “two systems” will be an obstacle to development and social stability.
Hong Kong independence has become a destructive force that undermines the people’s national awareness, cooperation and exchange with the mainland. Chief-Executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor will take office in less than two months and she has vowed to focus on people’s welfare and social progress.
Hong Kong independence, however, will create troubles for the new administration. The central government’s clear stance on Hong Kong independence will help the new administration govern by rule of law and promote normal relations with the mainland.
More importantly, Wang’s comments will help Hong Kong and the mainland deepen their understanding about the internal logic of “one country, two systems.” First, “one country” is the prerequisite. It represents the central government’s exclusive sovereignty over Hong Kong.
Sovereignty is one of the fundamental principles of international relations and no nation will allow any infringement from any party within or outside of its territory. Second, “one country” is a basic state policy rolled out by the central government to realize China’s peaceful reunification, and “two systems” is Hong Kong’s right given by the central government. “One country” is the basis of “two systems.”
This principle is reflected by the relationship between the Hong Kong Basic Law and the Constitution of China. The Hong Kong Basic Law is enacted on the basis of the Constitution. The Hong Kong Basic Law does not exist outside the Constitution.
Third, “one country” and “two systems” share much in common. “Two systems” contains unity, security and national virtue. Similar to core socialist values, core values of Hong Kong also advocate fairness and rule of law. Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying once noted that “two systems” applies in “one country.” Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy is empowered by the central government; it is neither self-determination nor complete self-governance.
Effectiveness of “one country, two systems” is rooted in mutual trust and joint efforts of Hong Kong and the mainland. The pioneering policy has become a basic state policy with no precedence. The challenges in its implementation cannot be resolved immediately. Answers lie in practice. In a long time to come, Hong Kong needs to tap its potentials so as to position itself in China’s development.
“One country, two systems” is one and indivisible entirety. Anyone who tries to do otherwise risks harming the rights endowed by the principle to Hong Kong. As Wang Zhenmin pointed out, China never seeks to assimilate Hong Kong to the mainland; instead, it hopes Hong Kong would succeed under “two systems” and play a distinctive role in combining “one country” and “two systems.”
(The author is a scholar with the China Youth University of Political Studies. firstname.lastname@example.org)