In 1984, China’s paramount leader Deng Xiaoping signed the “Sino-British Joint Declaration” and promised that Hong Kong’s laws and system of government would remain fundamentally unchanged after the territory was returned to China from the United Kingdom and that the people of Hong Kong would govern themselves for 50 years.
But has this promise been kept under Chinese president Xi Jinping?
In fact, the “One Country, Two Systems” principle that supposedly describes Hong Kong’s independence and distinctness within Chinese law, is virtually non-existent.
Currently, the Pro-establishment camp, what critics call the Pro-China camp, has 59% seats in the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. This means that they can decide whether to veto or pass a bill according to the will of the central government.
Rather than being a government of the people, the Hong Kong government ignores public opinion.
2014 saw the second largest demonstration in Hong Kong history: The “Umbrella revolution.” It began when the National People’s Congress Standing Committee passed the 2014-2015 Hong Kong electoral reform bill. This bill added many restrictions for the election of the chief executive. Notably, neither citizens nor political parties would be allowed to nominate someone for the position. As a result, the elected chief executive is the person the central government wants.
1.2 million people participated in this revolution. This was also the first time that Hong Kong experienced a police-civilian conflict. The protest lasted for 79 days. But in the end, this movement failed, they did not get concessions from the central government.
In 2017, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee passed the “Joint Boundary Clearance” to arrange the High-Speed Rail between Hong Kong and Mainland China. This bill listed West Kowloon station, which is within Hong Kong, as an area of Mainland China and monitored by China law enforcement authority. Opponents criticized that the central government was distorting the Basic Law and the one country, two systems principle, and they also worried that the high-speed rail station would become a loophole to let Chinese law enforcement arrest dissidents.
Then the largest demonstration in Hong Kong history occurred in 2019. Tony Chan Tong Kai, murdered his girlfriend in Taiwan and fled to Hong Kong. But there was no bill to extradite fugitives from Hong Kong to Taiwan. Therefore, the chief executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, decided to formulate an extradition bill.
Because this bill is applicable to extradition requests between Hong Kong and any other place, many people feared it would be used to extradite Hong Kong citizens to mainland China, where they would not have a fair trial.
This decision led to a series of social movements to demand the withdrawal of the bill. After this revolution, the government did withdraw the bill, but that didn’t stop Beijing from continuing to pass two even more concerning bills in 2021: the Hong Kong electoral reform and the Hong Kong National Security law.
The electoral reform bill mandates that all candidates have to be approved by the Eligibility Review Committee and obtain at least 10 nominations from the election committee composed of pro-China individuals to ensure that all government officials are patriots.
This decision made many citizens worry that the “patriots” were directly under the orders of the Central Government.
The second bill, National Security law, is to prevent separatism, inciting subversion of state power, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. People in Hong Kong are worried about this bill because during those protests in 2014 and 2019, the Hong Kong government stated that some individuals colluded with foreign forces and tried to incite subversion of state power. The Central government and Hong Kong government also distorted the protest for democracy, claiming that it was an attempt to make Hong Kong independent.
We can see that in recent years China has deprived Hong Kong of democracy and freedom. Hong Kong’s citizens are becoming more dissatisfied with the government. The way the Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs has explained “One Country, Two Systems” is a far cry from what Deng Xiaoping promised in 1984.
Elections and autonomy are now bogus. There is no more democracy in Hong Kong.