Sun, Apr 02, 2017 - Page 6 News List

HK’s quest for identity following the ‘1997 dream’

By Lee Min-yung 李敏勇

Hong Kong has been a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) since 1997, and Beijing has promised that it would let the Hong Kong chief executive rule the territory based on the “one country, two systems” policy.

Still, over the past two decades, Beijing has been behind all appointments, from those to the Election Committee, which should head the so-called “universal suffrage,” to chief executives. While it is true that there is “one country,” there are certainly not “two systems.”

Public support for losing candidate former Hong Kong secretary of finance John Tsang (曾俊華) in last week’s chief executive election was in fact twice that of the winning candidate, former Hong Kong chief secretary for administration Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥), but Lam received twice the number of votes that went to Tsang. This shows that whoever is picked by Beijing wins. China’s version of democracy is a distortion.

Hong Kong was leased to Great Britain by the Qing Dynasty in 1841, then witnessed the transfer of Chinese power from the Qing to the Republic of China (ROC), and then again from the ROC to the PRC.

The switch from the imperial system to right-wing and then left-wing authoritarian rule was a sharp contrast to British rule of law. Despite the absence of a democratic system, the territory used to enjoy a high degree of freedom, but following the handover to China, the “Pearl of the Orient” no longer shines with the same luster.

China claims to be Hong Kong’s “birth mother,” which was forced by a great power and lured by the gains to lease it to its “foster mother,” Great Britain. China used nationalist sentiment to regain the territory, but deep down, Beijing has been jealous of Hong Kong’s development under the rule of another nation.

As the PRC has become more developed, wealthier and stronger, it has insisted on oppressing the territory just to force it to bow its head.

The practical implementation of “one country, two systems” shows that China is saying one thing, but doing another. Calling it “two systems” is a misnomer.

Whether Hong Kongers like it or not, Beijing picked Lam as chief executive. “Socialism with Chinese characteristics” and “democracy with Chinese characteristics” are uniquely Chinese definitions that are very different from anyone else’s.

Hong Kong’s experience since 1997 is similar to Taiwan’s experience after 1945, because for both, any hope for the “motherland” has become a nightmare.

Taiwan was ceded to Japan, while Hong Kong was leased to Great Britain, but nevertheless, they were both colonized. Both Great Britain and Japan modernized early on, and both follow the rule of law. Both British and Japanese colonial rule stood in sharp contrast to Chinese rule. Moreover, national awareness raised people’s hopes of becoming a modern nation, and independence has become an option.

Only by knowing China will it be possible to understand it, and having been ruled by China creates an even stronger wish to cast off the “motherland.”

In their confusion, Taiwanese once welcomed the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government when it arrived from China, but the nightmare of the 228 Incident in 1947 woke Taiwanese up and they began attempting to build a free and democratic nation.

For Hong Kongers, the “1997 dream” has been dashed, as they have finally come to realize that they should never expect the Chinese Communist Party to offer them freedom and democracy.

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