Wed, Jul 07, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Beijing is showing its real face in Hong Kong

By Liu Kuan-teh劉冠德

In reaction to the lack of autonomy and democracy under the so-called "one country, two systems" formula, over half a million people in Hong Kong took to the streets on July 1, a march that coincided with the anniversary of the former British colony's return to China. A clear and unified message was sent to the Chinese leadership -- return power to the people, fight for democracy.

This was not the first time that the people have expressed their strong dissatisfaction with the Beijing government. A year ago, a demonstration by 500,000 residents protested China's attempt to impose "national security" laws that would have curtailed basic freedoms of expression and human rights, and dispelled any illusions about Beijing's "one country, two systems."

The recent gathering displayed the growing demand for the Chinese leadership to reexamine the "one country, two systems" formula in relation to Hong Kong. The model was designed originally as tool to brainwash the world that Hong Kong and Taiwan could be unified under the "one China" principle with sustainable autonomy. Now the truth deconstructs the fantasy that democracy would never be sacrificed under authoritarian rule.

What went wrong with the "one country, two systems" illusion? The talk about preserving government structure of Hong Kong -- or Taiwan -- and not appointing local authorities was just that: talk. Hong Kong's Legislative Council attempted to revise the "Electoral Laws on the Chief of the Special Administration Region" two years ago -- and ended up granting the Beijing government the right to dismiss the chief at its own will.

To what extent have Taiwanese people helped bring about the decline of the "one China" myth? The Taiwanese can elect their own president through a democratic process and choose another political party to replace the one they don't like. In Hong Kong, the chief executive needs an imperial order from the Beijing government to rule and he or she can be sacked by Beijing at any time.

What is the implication of the July 1 demonstration on the future democratization of China? The establishment of a liberal democracy in China is unlikely in the foreseeable future. Even though the world anticipated a growing move toward democracy following China's recent political succession, the new leadership, led by President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), is still controlled by the older generation.

While some anticipated a new look in China's new generation of leadership, Hu reiterated the importance of abiding the so-call "Three Represents" of former president Jiang Zemin (江澤民). It showed no prospect for immediate opening of political democratization.

Can "political incrementalism" become the path for China's democratization? Political reform based on such gradualism will face a great deal of challenges if it does not come up with more economic openness.

As China becomes more incorporated into the world trade regime, economic interdependence may heighten, rather than defuse, political tensions between Beijing and the outside world.

But dependence also means vulnerability. Since China is a country that has suffered from a "century of national humiliation" and is eager to regain it's national pride, its leaders are naturally inclined to "control what they depend on [from abroad] or to lessen the extent of their dependency." This is the real face of today's China. The "one country, two systems" model is just a dead end. The world must deal with a growing, but potentially unstable, China.

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