The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) promised that Hong Kong’s political system and way of life would remain unchanged for 50 years after 1997, when the handover of Hong Kong from the UK to China took place. However, in the past a few years, the political environment there has been worsening. One obvious sign is that the Hong Kong government often abuses police power to suppress peaceful demonstrations.
As a result, in a recent survey conducted by the University of Hong Kong public opinion center, HKU POP, public approval ratings for the Hong Kong police have fallen to their lowest level since 1997. On Aug. 18, Hong Kong police violently handled and illegally detained protesting students during a visit by Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) to the University of Hong Kong. The incident not only led to much increased tension between democracy activists and the police, but also drew wide criticism from lawyers, journalists and academics.
The police themselves were not to blame for the government’s misconduct.
As Wang Guangya (王光亞), director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs office of China’s State Council, said: Hong Kong civil servants “only know how to accept and execute instructions.”
High-ranking officials in Hong Kong’s government should be held responsible for the incident, but it is not very helpful to over-criticize them, because they were executing instructions too.
The real problem is that the territory still does not have universal suffrage. In the election for Hong Kong’s chief executive, which is to be held next year, the “functional constituency parties” will still be instructed by Beijing on who to vote for. The CCP will definitely manipulate the election and decide who will be the next chief executive.
Knowing this, it is easy to understand why Hong Kong Chief Secretary Henry Tang (唐英年), who is one of the CCP’s preferred candidates for the next chief executive, responded to the accusations of civil rights violations by calling them “completely rubbish,” Hong Kong Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee (李少光), who is seeking to take Tang’s position as chief secretary, followed Tang to denounce the media queries as “complete rubbish” and Commissioner of Police Andy Tsang (曾偉雄), who may be promoted to secretary for security, keeps adopting a hard line on demonstrations for human rights and democracy.
These Hong Kong officials are making the “rational choice” to obey and please those who give them political power. Accordingly, they need not care what protesters think while they take action to suppress them. One reason is Beijing does not like such demonstrations. Another reason is that lay citizens’ votes do not count in the election for the core leaders and thus do not affect their political careers.
On this point, government officials in Hong Kong are not too different from the CCP cadres, and the Hong Kong Police are becoming more like Chinese police while suppressing demonstrations, as a Hong Kong democracy activist commented.
It is the CCP’s strategy to delay universal suffrage for Hong Kong to strengthen its manipulation of the territory’s politics. The strategy is successful, as can be seen from the deteriorating democracy and human rights record in Hong Kong.
If the trend continues, “one country, two systems” is doomed to failure. Some people are rethinking Hong Kong’s political status. The rise of political movements promoting Hong Kong’s local values and British colonial culture, such as the Hong Kong City-State Autonomy Movement, gives a sign that “one country, two systems” is in doubt among Hong Kong’s people. “One country, two systems” is dying in Hong Kong.