Xi’s HK speech reaffirms long-term durability of ‘One Country, Two Systems’

2022-07-04 03:51     Comment:0


        President Xi Jinping reaffirmed the long-term durability of the “One Country, Two Systems” principle in his address at a meeting in Hong Kong celebrating the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the motherland and the inaugural ceremony of the 6th-term government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) on Friday. 

The speech was both programmatic and pragmatic. Its English-language version consists of about 3,000 words, which indicates its political importance. The address focused, inter alia, on the concept and practice of the “One Country, Two Systems” principle, not just in Hong Kong but also in Macau. Xi mentioned our special administrative region several times in connection with “One Country, Two Systems”. 

Xi underlined that “One Country, Two Systems” is an “unprecedented innovation” whose “fundamental purpose is to safeguard China’s sovereignty, security, development interests and to maintain long-term prosperity and stability in Hong Kong and Macau.” 

The architect of the concept is none other than Deng Xiaoping (1904-1997) who in the late 1970s reportedly envisaged it first for Taiwan before extending it in the early 1980s to solving the Hong Kong and Macau matters left over by history. While the Taiwan issue remains an internal matter for China to solve, “One Country, Two Systems” nevertheless turned out to be a master stroke that resulted in the setting-up of the country’s two special administrative regions – Hong Kong and Macau.

Xi stressed that “One Country, Two Systems” (“yī guó liǎng zhì” in Pinyin) “serves the fundamental interests of not only Hong Kong and Macau, but also the whole country and the nation.”

And, most importantly, Xi emphasised that “there is no reason for us to change such a good policy, and we must adhere to it in the long run.”

As someone who lived in Hong Kong in the early 1980s in two starkly different neighbourhoods, first in industrious Causeway Bay and later in still rather rural Tai Wai, and has lived since the mid-1980s in Macau, I found Xi’s firm reaffirmation of the long-term durability of “One Country, Two Systems” really reassuring. 

Ultimately, “One Country, Two Systems” is the raison d’être of the nation’s special administrative regions. 

While the respective joint declarations and basic laws of Hong Kong and Macau state that their previous economic systems and ways of life “shall remain unchanged for 50 years,” this doesn’t mean, in my view, that the 50-year timeframe for “One Country, Two Systems” is engraved in stone. I am sure that if it is in the fundamental interest of “One Country”, the “Two Systems” will continue one way or another beyond five decades. What matters is China’s national interest at that time. 

Xi’s speech included the thought-provoking remark that concerning the practice of “One Country, Two Systems” in Hong Kong in the past quarter of a century, “a review of the past can light the way forward.” Recent events not just in Hong Kong but also on the geopolitical front made his remarks even more apposite. 

4 requirements & 4 proposals 

Xi’s address also included four requirements and four proposals not just for Hong Kong but – both explicitly and implicitly – also for Macau. 

“First, we must fully and faithfully implement the principle of ‘One Country, Two Systems’,” Xi said, adding that this principle embodies a complete system and its top priority is to safeguard national sovereignty, security, and development interests. “With this as a prerequisite, Hong Kong and Macau can keep the previous capitalist systems unchanged for a long time and enjoy a high degree of autonomy,” Xi stressed. However, he also underlined that all residents in the two special administrative regions should “willingly respect and uphold the country’s fundamental system,” which consists of the mainland’s socialist system and the nation’s leadership by the Communist Party of China” (CPC). 

We should all take due notice of the fact Xi’s remark mentioned “all residents” in Hong Kong and Macau, i.e., not only Chinese citizens but also foreign nationals. 

“Second, we must uphold the central government’s overall jurisdiction while security the SARs’ high degree of autonomy,” Xi said. Among other things, he underlined that the two SARs must uphold their executive-led systems.

“Third, we must ensure that Hong Kong is administered by patriots,” Xi emphasised, pointing out that “there is no country or region in the world where its people will allow an unpatriotic or even treasonous force or figure to take power.” 

Obviously, this “must” has never been an issue in the Macau Special Administrative Region (MSAR). 

Xi’s fourth point was that “we must maintain Hong Kong’s distinctive status and advantages,” considering that “Hong Kong’s close connection with the world market and strong support from the motherland are its distinctive advantages.”

Xi’s address included four proposals: Hong Kong should further improve its governance; it should continue to create strong impetus for growth; it should earnestly address people’s concerns and difficulties in daily life; and the people of Hong Kong should work together to safeguard harmony and stability.

Xi made it a point to highlight the situation of young people in Hong Kong. He reminded his audience, quite rightly, that Hong Kong will prosper only when its young people thrive, that it will only develop when its young people achieve well-rounded development, and that Hong Kong will have a bright future only when its young people have good career prospects.” He singled out the challenges that young first-time home-buyers in Hong Kong are facing. 

I hope that Macau’s civic leaders pricked up their ears when they listened to Xi’s advice on youth development. 

Concerning the nation’s rejuvenation drive, Xi concluded his address by quoting the Chinese adage: “I would like to borrow a pair of wings from the crane to soar up to the sky.” He used it as a metaphor for “China’s national rejuvenation having become a historical inevitability, and the successful practice of ‘One Country, Two Systems’ in Hong Kong being an important part of this historic process.” 

Beyond a shadow of doubt, this also applies to Macau. 

– Harald Brüning  

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