Wed, Mar 06, 2019 - Page 8 News List

‘Bay area’ to further limit freedom

By HoonTing 雲程

Chinese authorities on Feb. 18 promulgated the “Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area,” aiming to integrate many aspects, from education and business to daily life, of a combined population of 70 million living in the three adjacent areas that cover 56,000km2.

Under the plan, people in Guangdong Province, Hong Kong and Macau would be treated equally in education, qualification exams and employment, and would be eligible to apply for a residence permit. Starting with individuals, Beijing is embarking on a “one country, one system” project targeting Hong Kong and Macau.

The Greater Bay Area concept can be traced to a proposal made in the early 1990s by Hong Kong academic Woo Chia-wei (吳家瑋), then-president of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, who suggested that the area could be modeled on the San Francisco Bay Area.

China’s plan was formally launched when the “Framework Agreement on Deepening Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Cooperation in the Development of the Bay Area” was signed in 2017 to mark Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) political and military achievements through his imperial rule.

Former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s (鄧小平) 1984 southern China inspection tour was a turning point for the implementation of his reform and opening up policy, which — viewed together with the establishment of US-China diplomatic ties in 1979 — unveiled China’s long-term strategy to politically entice the US with its potential economic benefits. These achievements should be attributed to Deng.

However, since Xi rose to power in 2012, he has been erasing Deng’s political traces by amending the constitution to end presidential and vice presidential term limits and removing negative descriptions of the Cultural Revolution.

More clear evidence can be found in Shenzhen’s Shekou Museum of China’s Reform and Opening-Up, where a sculpture depicting Deng’s southbound inspection tour was removed and replaced with a wall adorned with famous quotes by Xi when the museum reopened in August last year.

Apparently, one way Xi is trying to establish his own historical status is to break the commitment made in the Sino-British Joint Declaration — that “Hong Kong’s capitalist system and lifestyle shall remain unchanged for 50 years” — by expanding the geographical scope in order to dilute the “one country, two systems” model implemented in Hong Kong and Macau.

The Greater Bay Area is to be formally established under a five-year framework agreement between the Chinese National Development and Reform Commission representing the central government and the local governments of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau.

The central government on the one hand and three local governments on the other is an unequal model, and it invokes associations with the ominous 1951 Seventeen-Point Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet.

Two years ago, a dispute arose between Hong Kong and Beijing over “inherent rights” regarding the phrase “high degree of autonomy.” From Hong Kong’s perspective, its “high degree of autonomy” is guaranteed by the joint declaration and Beijing is not allowed to infringe on those rights.

Hong Kongers’ idea of autonomy is similar to the historical relations between greater London and the City of London. While the former was under the British crown’s rule, the latter came into being and implemented self-rule before the Norman conquest of England in 1066 and the establishment of the UK. Up to the present day, the monarch still has to respect the city’s special rights of autonomy, and without the permission of the lord mayor, the monarch cannot enter the City of London.

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