Wed, May 28, 2003 - Page 8 News List

HK gets the worst of `two systems'

By Paul Lin 林保華

SARS has damaged Hong Kong perhaps more than anywhere else in the world. In tracing the reasons for this, one finds that they are related to "one country, two systems." But it's not the "two systems" that is a problem. It's the "one country" -- the same "one country" that Hong Kong's Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa (董建華) and those other high officials frequently promote because they think "one country" should take precedence over "two systems," and "two systems" must defer to "one country."

Being unable to think of any way to resolve Hong Kong's economic difficulties, Tung could only advocate "integration" with the Pearl River delta region in his policy report in January this year -- thereby pushing Hong Kong one step closer to the abyss of "one country."

Unfortunately, in February, SARS swept across Guangdong like a tidal wave, and Hong Kong was "integrated" with the affected area. Since Hong Kong considers itself part of "one country," no one among the chief executive and other high officials dared to deny the Guangdong Provincial Government's claims that this strange disease might have originated in Hong Kong, despite the fact that a wave of panic buying had already occurred in Guangdong.

Moreover, since neither Beijing nor Hong Kong took the disease seriously, Hong Kong also lowered its guard. As a result, when a Chinese professor carried SARS from Guangzhou to Hong Kong, he not only harmed the territory, but also exported the disease to Singapore, Vietnam and Canada. It was only when evidence from abroad suggested that Hong Kong had exported the disease that the territory's government awoke from its dream.

When Southeast Asian countries imposed travel restrictions on Chinese citizens to prevent the spread of SARS, Hong Kong took no such measures, despite its extremely extensive contacts with China.

Obviously they were afraid of offending the Chinese government.

Since viruses are frequently "exported" from China via Hong Kong, some countries adopted travel restrictions for people from Hong Kong as well.

Only then did Hong Kong belatedly begin to monitor the temperatures of outbound travellers. Nevertheless, they continued to put off monitoring those travellers arriving from China, a policy that was only implemented on April 26.

On the previous day, the "Shanghai clique" of former president Jiang Zemin (江澤民) had finally made public their support for the actions taken by President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) in the fight against SARS. Is it that Hong Kong not only has to take its cue from Beijing but must also get a nod from Jiang? After all, Tung is also a member of Jiang's clique.

Another example illustrates the point. On April 12, when Hu went south and met with Tung in Shenzhen, the epidemic was raging in Hong Kong, but Tung refused Hu's offer to provide aid.

On April 25, however, when the Shanghai clique stepped forward to fight SARS, Tung's attitude changed. When he met Wen at a conference in Bangkok on April 29, he unexpectedly asked Wen for help, and by this time the epidemic in Hong Kong had already taken a sharp turn for the better.

Does this indicate that only after Jiang had acknowledged the seriousness of the epidemic could Hong Kong acknowledge the same and request aid?

Prior to that, major problems were trivialized and minor problems were ignored altogether.

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