Wang Shengwei argues that Hong Kong people must abandon pointless bickering over politics and instead channel all their energies into more constructive goals.
While Hong Kong people still need time to digest the shock from the Mong Kok riot caused by radical “localists” just after Lunar New Year’s Day, several weaker-than-expected economic indicators and some of our youth groups’ advocacy for “Hong Kong independence” have injected unwarranted pessimism into some of our residents.
From February to May, there have been intermittent reports of how these youngsters want to alienate the city from China. Their acts totally ignored Chief Secretary for Administration Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s warning on April 24 that independence would violate the “One Country, Two Systems” principle. Lam had tried to discourage their radical campaign, warning: “It will only lead to meaningless bickering and divert our attention from worthwhile matters.”
Most mature observers would agree that “Hong Kong independence” is a political dead end, because Beijing will never accept it and the international community knows that Hong Kong has been part of China since early history. (The history of Hong Kong under imperial China began in 214 BC during the Qin Dynasty.)
What Hong Kong people must do now is turn away from this unproductive and futile bickering, put an end to irrational pessimism and refocus their energy into more constructive goals that could be attained for our society.
Aware of this pessimism, Beijing sent Zhang Dejiang, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China, chairman of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee and the top official overseeing Hong Kong and Macao affairs, to the SAR to attend the Belt and Road Summit, as part of a three-day inspection tour from May 17-19.
To ease fears about the erosion of the “One Country, Two Systems” policy governing Hong Kong, Zhang first assured the SAR that it will not lose its identity or autonomy and become just like a mainland city. But he warned against independence moves because they undermine the fundamental interests of Hong Kong.
Further, abandoning the Basic Law and “One Country, Two Systems” style of government would create chaos across Hong Kong. He added tellingly: “Everyone will have to ‘foot the bill’ if Hong Kong becomes chaotic.” This was Zhang’s unmistakable political signal: The importance of “One Country” takes precedence over the “Two Systems”.
One of the highlights of his visit was listening to work reports made by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and the secretaries, and for the first time Zhang represented the central government in inspecting the SAR’s administrative work at its headquarters.
It should be considered an important breakthrough in the central government’s overtures to dissident groups in Hong Kong that Zhang held direct talks with four prominent “pan-democratic” lawmakers. Its significance cannot be underplayed as it indicated Beijing’s genuine desire for dialogue with all factions in Hong Kong to achieve a more harmonious society. This reiterates the oft-repeated official line of “One Country” dovetailing with “Two Systems”.
Zhang was at pains to stress that Hong Kong and the mainland should work closely together in a mutually complementary manner. Accordingly, he urged Hong Kong to take an active role in the Belt and Road Initiative (B&R) and cited Hong Kong’s four unique advantages: 1) strategic location; 2) a free port and the world’s freest economy; 3) a developed economy with a diverse and advanced service sector; and 4) an important window for cultural exchanges between East and West. He said Hong Kong can create an irreplaceable win-win outcome in the initiative.
To promote economic restructuring, Hong Kong should grasp the B&R opportunities to maintain the SAR’s economic prosperity and social stability, and share in the success of the well-planned reform and opening-up of the mainland.
Hong Kong should appreciate Zhang’s advice that it should not only try to consolidate its inherent economic advantages but open up new frontiers by developing a new economic growth engine. To dramatize this message, he wasted no time in visiting the Hong Kong Science Park on May 18. In connection with this our Chief Executive, in his Policy Address, announced his commitment to the city’s economic development of innovative technology through the injection of at least HK$4.7 billion for the establishment of four funds for research startups, universities and Cyberport. Hopefully, scientific research will stimulate GDP growth from the current figure of less than 0.5 percent to 1 percent.
This year, several Hong Kong Baptist University physics and biology professors won prestigious gold medals and awards in the 44th International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva. These are the initial fruits of the SAR government’s support.
In just three short days, Zhang has substantially reassured Hong Kong people of the central government’s trust and support. It is now our turn to reciprocate Beijing’s olive branch with positive action.
The author is an independent scholar and freelance writer. She is also the founder and president of the China-US Friendship Exchange, Inc.