Hong Kong Democratic Progress Under the Framework of One Country, Two Systems文章源自英文巴士-https://www.en84.com/12745.html
The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China文章源自英文巴士-https://www.en84.com/12745.html
I. Under British Colonial Rule There Was No Democracy in Hong Kong
II. The Return of Hong Kong to China Ushered in a New Era for Democracy
III. The Central Government Is Committed to Developing Democracy in Hong Kong
IV. Anti-China Agitators Undermine and Disrupt Democracy in Hong Kong
V. Development of Democracy in Hong Kong Is Back on Track
VI. The Prospects Are Bright for Democracy in Hong Kong
Under British colonial rule, there was no democracy in Hong Kong. After resuming the exercise of sovereignty, the Chinese government implemented the basic policy of One Country, Two Systems and established democracy in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). It has since provided constant support to the region in developing its democratic system. The determination, sincerity, and efforts of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Chinese government to this end have remained consistent and are obvious to any objective observer.
Hong Kong has faced an extended period of damaging social unrest caused by anti-China agitators both inside and outside the region. Over the years, those who attempt to overturn the new constitutional order and destabilize Hong Kong and the rest of China have colluded to obstruct the democratic process. On the pretext of “fighting for democracy”, they have attempted to stage a color revolution, split Hong Kong from China, and seize power there. Their attempts have gravely threatened the order established by the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China (Constitution) and the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (Basic Law), thus endangering China’s national security and Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity.
Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, President Xi Jinping has emphasized on many occasions the importance of upholding the One Country, Two Systems policy in the new era. His observations provide the fundamental guidance for its sustained implementation. President Xi has pointed out that in developing democracy in Hong Kong, we must abide by the principle of One Country, Two Systems and the Basic Law and act in an orderly manner, in line with local realities and in accordance with the law. To put an end to the political turmoil of recent years and the serious damage it has caused in Hong Kong, the CPC and the Chinese government have taken a series of major decisions, based on a clear understanding of the situation in the region. These include strengthening the central authorities’ overall jurisdiction over the HKSAR in accordance with the Constitution and the Basic Law, improving the relevant systems and mechanisms to enforce the Constitution and the Basic Law, reinforcing the legal framework and supporting mechanisms for safeguarding national security in the HKSAR, and modifying the region’s electoral system, thereby laying the foundations for Hong Kong patriots to govern Hong Kong. These measures address both the symptoms and root causes of the unrest, and have restored order to Hong Kong, returning the democratic process to a sound footing. The Chinese government will continue to implement the principle of One Country, Two Systems fully and faithfully, and it will support Hong Kong in developing a democratic system that conforms to the region’s constitutional status and actual conditions.
Developing and improving democracy in Hong Kong is of profound importance in safeguarding the democratic rights of the people, realizing good governance, and ensuring long-term prosperity, stability and security. A comprehensive review of the origin and development of democracy in the HKSAR, and the principles and position of the central government, will help clarify facts, set the record straight, and build consensus. It will further the orderly progress of democracy in Hong Kong, ensure the long-term implementation of One Country, Two Systems, and benefit all local residents.
I. Under British Colonial Rule There Was No Democracy in Hong Kong
Hong Kong has been a part of China’s territory since ancient times. In the 1820s, British merchants began smuggling opium into the mainland of China via Hong Kong Island.
After the First Opium War of 1840-1842, British troops occupied Hong Kong Island. On August 29, 1842, Britain forced the Qing government to sign the Treaty of Nanking, the first of the unequal treaties in China’s modern history, which ceded Hong Kong Island to Britain.
After the Second Opium War of 1856-1860, Britain forced the Qing government to sign the Beijing Convention on October 24, 1860, which ceded to the UK the part of Kowloon Peninsula south of present-day Boundary Street.
After the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895, Britain again forced the Qing government to sign the Convention Between Great Britain and China Respecting an Extension of Hong Kong Territory on June 9, 1898, by which the New Territories were leased to Britain for 99 years. The rental payment for this “lease” was zero. As a result, Britain occupied the entire area that is now known as Hong Kong.
These three unequal treaties were imposed on China through British aggression. They were never recognized as valid by the Chinese people or by any Chinese government after the Revolution of 1911.
1. Britain Exercised a Typical Colonial Rule over Hong Kong
A governor was appointed to rule on behalf of Britain without the people of Hong Kong ever being consulted. He was answerable only to the British government and was entirely at its command. His paramount powers and prerogatives in Hong Kong were free of any checks and balances, and he took charge of “all things that belong to his said office”. He assumed all executive and legislative powers, and had the power to appoint and remove all senior government officials and judges. He also served as commander-in-chief of the British forces in Hong Kong.
The Executive Council and the Legislative Council, whose members were appointed by the governor with the approval of the British government and who answered to the governor, were merely advisory bodies on decision-making and lawmaking for the governor. The governor was president of both bodies. It was not until February 1993 that the governor no longer served concurrently as president of the Legislative Council.
Before Hong Kong’s return to China, the Judicial Committee of the British Privy Council exercised the power of final adjudication and the power of final interpretation of all laws in Hong Kong.
The British colonial government maintained a repressive rule in Hong Kong, tightly controlling the press and restricting freedom of speech.
In March 1952, Ta Kung Pao reprinted a commentary by the People’s Daily on brutalities committed by the British Hong Kong authorities. The paper was convicted of publishing seditious content. A heavy fine was imposed on it, and it was banned from publication.
In August 1967, three newspapers published articles calling on the Hong Kong people to resist oppression. They were ordered to suspend publication for six months, accused of publishing fraudulent and seditious articles, and the newspapers’ owners and printers were sentenced to three years’ imprisonment.
Local Chinese residents were subjected to surveillance by British Military Intelligence and the Special Branch of the Hong Kong Police Force. Patriotic social organizations and residents who had close ties with China’s mainland were brutally suppressed.
The British Hong Kong authorities practiced racial discrimination against local Chinese, and imposed harsh laws and severe punishments on them.
Over many years, local Chinese were subjected to inhumane punishments such as flogging and hanging. The authorities practiced separate rule over Chinese and Westerners and imposed curfews on the local Chinese. A Chinese person had to hold a pass issued by the police superintendent when going out at night; violators could be punished by fine, detention, flogging, wearing a cangue in public, and even summary execution.
The local Chinese were not allowed to hold public gatherings without approval, with the exception of religious ceremonies and during holidays.
Only European-style buildings could be built in some downtown areas, and the local Chinese were prohibited from living there.
The local Chinese were long barred from entering some premises and sharing certain public facilities with the British.
In judicial proceedings, the Chinese suffered discrimination and were subjected to different penalties from Westerners for the same offense, and the penalties were often severe.
The authorities prohibited patriotic teachers and students from flying the Chinese national flag and singing the Chinese anthem in schools. Patriotic schools were closed down, patriotic organizations were dissolved, patriotic individuals were deported, protests were brutally suppressed, and patriots were arrested. Workers who staged demonstrations were shot at and some were killed.
Local Chinese were long excluded from governance bodies and were denied participation in Hong Kong’s governance.
It was not until 1880 that a Chinese was appointed a non-official member of the Legislative Council.
It was not until 1926 that a Chinese was appointed a non-official member of the Executive Council.
It was not until 1948 that a Chinese held the post of administrative officer.
It was not until 1957 that a Chinese became a police superintendent.
It was not until 1989 that a Chinese served as the commissioner of police.
The post of attorney general was held by a Briton right up until Hong Kong’s return to China.
2. The British Government Repeatedly Rejected All Calls for Democratic Reform in Hong Kong
People in Hong Kong made numerous demands for democracy, but the British government rejected or ignored all of them. For example:
Over a prolonged period in Hong Kong, there were repeated calls to establish a municipal council, provide elected seats in the Legislative Council, and restructure the Legislative Council, as well as requests for local autonomy. All were rejected by the British government.
After World War II, the international colonial system collapsed and democratic movements surged across the world. In 1946, under pressure from the Hong Kong people, the then governor Mark Aitchison Young made proposals to the British government to establish an elected municipal council and reform local governance, which, however, were refused.
On May 20, 1976, the British government ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Many of the rights were denied to Hong Kong and other dependencies. Article 25 (b) of the covenant provides the right “to vote and be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot…” However, by means of a specific reservation, the British government explicitly excluded “the establishment of an elected Executive or Legislative Council in Hong Kong”.
It can be seen from all this that under their rule, the British colonial authorities suppressed any democratic elements in Hong Kong.
3. The Sudden Interest of the British Government in “Electoral Reform” at the End of the Colonial Rule Revealed Its Ulterior Motives
In March 1979, the then Hong Kong Governor Murray MacLehose paid a visit to Beijing and was left in no doubt about the Chinese government’s determination to recover Hong Kong. The British government then suddenly reversed its previous opposition to democratic reform in Hong Kong, and started a major program to introduce and expand electoral processes. Within a very short period, the Hong Kong district councils and the Legislative Council switched from having all their seats appointed to having most of their seats elected. In particular, in October 1992, soon after he took office, Chris Patten, the last Governor, presented a proposal for electoral reform which violated the Joint Declaration of the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of the People’s Republic of China on the Question of Hong Kong (Sino-British Joint Declaration), violated the principle of aligning Hong Kong’s future political system with the Basic Law, and violated previous agreements and understandings reached between the two sides. Known as the “Three Violations”, these were imposed in Hong Kong in the face of strong opposition from China.
After the establishment of the parliamentary system, the electoral system of the UK experienced hundreds of years of evolution, but the British government rushed through electoral reform in Hong Kong in the very short remaining period of the colonial rule. Its ulterior motives were obvious. In fact, this was part of a British attempt to portray their withdrawal as somehow “honorable” under a veneer of “British-style representative democracy”. The intention was to undermine China’s sovereignty and full governance and extend British political influence after Hong Kong’s return to China, by turning Hong Kong into a de facto independent or semi-independent political entity.
The vicious nature of British colonial rule and the British government’s repeated refusal to develop democracy in Hong Kong cannot be concealed or changed. The colonial rule did not bring any genuine democracy to Hong Kong; instead, it laid hidden snares for the development of democracy in Hong Kong after its return to China.