Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Hong Kong: One Country, One System

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Hong Kong: One Country, One System

Article excerpt

The promise the Chinese government made to Britain and to the world as Hong Kong reverted to Chinese control at midnight on June 30, 1997, that China would abide by the "one country, two systems" plan, which would afford Hong Kong greater autonomy, except in matters of foreign relations and defense, was to last 50 years.

That promise is falling 33 years short of fulfillment.

The communist government in Beijing has been nipping at the edges of Hong Kong's freedoms for some time, but last Sunday it decided to take a bigger bite. Writes The New York Times, "China's legislature laid down strict limits ... to proposed voting reforms in Hong Kong, pushing back against months of rallies calling for free, democratic elections." The "strict limits" include new guidelines for nominating candidates, which means Beijing would choose who runs the city's government.

A deputy secretary general of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, Li Fei, was quoted by the Times as saying future candidates must declare that they "love the country, and love Hong Kong." Li Fei contends the new restrictions will "protect the broad stability of Hong Kong now and in the future."

Stability is often invoked by the Chinese government to repress dissent and was also cited as justification for the mass murder of pro-democracy demonstrators at Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.

I was in Hong Kong for the 1997 handover ceremony. There was guarded optimism that Beijing would allow the city to continue to enjoy the kind of freedom unique among totalitarian states. At the time I wrote: "Many are more cautious than optimistic about this dynamic city's future under a government that has demonstrated at Tiananmen Square that it will kill its own citizens if it ever feels threatened."

Martin Lee, founding chairman of Hong Kong's Democratic Party, told me that doing nothing in the face of threats to freedom ensures those freedoms will be lost: "It's wrong to be worried, to be afraid and to give up your freedoms. …

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