Revisit Deng Xiaoping's speeches on Hong Kong – Part 1
Updated 16:13, 01-Sep-2019
Tan Huizhu

Editor's Note: Tan Huizhu is deputy director of the Basic Law Committee of HKSAR of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress and vice president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong & Macao Studies. This is the first part of an edited translation of a Chinese-language article first published by People's Daily on August 30. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

The Hong Kong anti-fugitive bill protests did not end even though the Chief Executive Carrie Lam has declared the bill "dead." Over the past two months, however, the opposition and some radicals, backed by external forces, continued their campaign. They provoked the anti-government sentiment among the locals, used violence, and hit the bottom line of "one country, two systems," turning peaceful protests into turmoil. With the escalation of violence, signs of terrorism are showing.

In this context, it will be of special significance that we read the speeches made by former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1984, when he met with the Hong Kong and Macao delegation for the National Day celebrations, and at a meeting with the members of the Basic Law Drafting Committee of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong's success is under "one country, two systems"

"One country, two systems," allowing the existence of a capitalist system in a socialist country, is a preferential policy to Hong Kong and Macao. With the smooth handover of Hong Kong and Macao, the "one country, two systems" principle has achieved unprecedented success. 

When Deng Xiaoping met with members of the Basic Law Drafting Committee of Hong Kong, he said, "This is something new. It was created not by the United States, Japan, the Soviet Union or any European country, but by China; that is why we call it a Chinese characteristic." He also added that "we are building socialism suited to Chinese conditions, which is why we were able to formulate the policy of 'one country, two systems' and why we can allow the two different systems to coexist. We would not be able to do this if we lacked courage, the courage that comes from the support of the people. Our people support the socialist system and leadership by the Party."

Hong Kong residents wave Chinese national flags in a display of strong support to national unity, China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, August 5, 2019. /CGTN Photo

Hong Kong residents wave Chinese national flags in a display of strong support to national unity, China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, August 5, 2019. /CGTN Photo

Hong Kong enjoys a high degree of autonomy. Specifically, the administrative powers of Hong Kong government cover a wide range of areas, including economy, education, science, culture, sports, religion, social services, social security, and exit and entry administration. The SAR has its own independent tariff system, monetary system, and pays no tax to the central government. Though the central government claims the ownership of land in Hong Kong, it is the SAR government that is responsible for the actual management and the land revenue is collected only by the SAR itself.

The Hong Kong SAR has the legislative power to enact laws applicable to the city in civil, criminal, commercial and legal proceedings in accordance with the Basic Law. The laws previously in force in Hong Kong, that is, the common law, rules of equity, ordinances, subordinate legislation and customary law have mostly been maintained. In addition, the judicial system previously practiced in Hong Kong has been maintained, including independent judicial power, precedents, and trial by jury.

The extremely wide-ranging and high degree of autonomy has created favorable conditions for Hong Kong's economic development and indeed consolidated Hong Kong's status as an international financial, trade and shipping center. These are the institutional dividends brought about by "one country, two systems." 

In addition, the Chinese mainland has always been prioritizing the needs of Hong Kong in the supply of food, water and other daily necessities. Infrastructure projects such as the High Speed ​​Rail and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge are carried out for the convenience of Hong Kong residents in travelling. With the Mainland Travel Permit, Hong Kong residents can visit, study and work in the Chinese mainland with no time limit. Without China as its strong support, Hong Kong would never be self-sufficient, let alone become an international financial, trade, shipping center, or an international metropolis full of vitality and freedom.

Unfortunately, many Hong Kong people have not realized the change of Hong Kong after its reunification with China. Simply because they enjoy some kind of Western style in social values ​​and lifestyles, these people's attitudes towards China, which is their home country, are not so positive. Thus, some foreign forces seek the opportunity to infiltrate, and the United States, along with UK's constantly criticizing of the administration of Hong Kong, intended to use Hong Kong to hinder China's development.

Furthermore, the deep-seated contradictions in the Hong Kong society after the reunification have not been resolved, for which public grievances are accumulated. This summer the opposition has stoked the conflicts surrounding the amendment of the fugitive bill and dragged the whole society into turbulence.

Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge. /VCG Photo

Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge. /VCG Photo

The intervention of central government

"One country, two systems" and "Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy" do not mean that the central government cannot step in when Hong Kong is unable to resolve problems by itself. When needed, intervention becomes a must, which is the right and the responsibility of the central government.

Deng Xiaoping addressed members of the Basic Law Drafting Committee of Hong Kong in 1987 in this regard, saying, "There is another point that I should make clear. Don't ever think that everything would be all right if Hong Kong's affairs were administered solely by Hong Kong people while there is nothing that the Central Government needs to do. That simply wouldn't work – it's not a realistic idea. The Central Government certainly will not intervene in the day-to-day affairs of the special administrative region, nor is that necessary. But could something happen in the region that might jeopardize the fundamental interests of the country? Couldn't such a situation arise? If that happened, should Beijing intervene or not? Isn't it possible that something could happen there that would jeopardize the fundamental interests of Hong Kong itself? Can anyone imagine that there are in Hong Kong no forces that might engage in obstruction or sabotage? I see no grounds for taking comfort in that notion. If the central government were to abandon all its power, there might be turmoil that would damage Hong Kong's interests. Therefore, it is to Hong Kong's advantage, not its disadvantage, for the central government to retain some power there." 

Now, when some external or internal forces put Hong Kong's fundamental interests in jeopardy, the central government shall exercise its power to safeguard the interests of China and Hong Kong.

Any unbiased person would see that the Central government is to protect the long-term interest of Hong Kong. It ensures that the bottom line of "one country, two systems" is not overstepped.

In 1987, speaking to members of the Hong Kong Basic Law Drafting Committee, Deng once again stressed, "after 1997, we shall still allow people in Hong Kong to attack the Communist Party of China and China verbally, but what if they should turn their words into action, trying to convert Hong Kong into a base of opposition to the Chinese mainland under the pretext of 'democracy'? Then we would have no choice but to intervene." These cautionary comments should always be remembered.

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