Hong Kong: Does “one country, two systems” really work out?

Leaders. They have their supporters and backers, and they have their enemies and protesters. Hong Kong’s former Leung Chun-Ying has had his controversies, from meddling in a legislative investigation to rumors of him calling upon gangsters in the midst of pro-democratic protests. The Umbrella Movement in 2014 is only one of the examples of a large movement against the “one country, two systems” policy.

What is the Umbrella Movement?

The Umbrella Movement was a pro-democracy political movement in which more than 30,000 protesters, mainly students, stormed the streets of Admiralty, Mong Kok, and Causeway Bay for 79 days, holding up umbrellas as a symbol of defiance and resistance against the Hong Kong Police and the new policies set by China.

The Umbrella Movement, 2014
Picture Citation: http://thediplomat.com/2016/09/2-years-later-a-look-back-at-hong-kongs-umbrella-movement/

A brief run-down of Hong Kong’s election process:

Every four years, 1,200 people from different industries and backgrounds are elected to be on the choosing panel for the next Chief Executive of Hong Kong. Of course, the system is still controlled behind the scenes by the puppeteer, China. With China being the main supporter of so many different industries and businesses in Hong Kong, the large majority of the panel are pro-China, meaning that those individuals added together would be able to overpower any decisions or suggestions made by pro-democratic individuals, thus ending up with a pro-China Chief Executive.

Following up on its promise for a more democratic election process, China decided on a compromise: there would now be two stages of screening. 

The first stage would be composed of the panel of 1,200 people first screening the candidates for Chief Executive, leaving only 2~3 individuals still eligible for the running.

Next, the citizens of Hong Kong would then be able to choose from those 2 or 3 people who they wanted to be Chief Executive.

Now, obviously, there is a problem with this method. Clearly, the method is not ideal for pro-democratic citizens: after the mainly pro-China panel screened the candidates, the singled out candidates are obviously supporters of China, and this doesn’t leave much of a choice for the people. Instead of leaping to the end of the democratic spectrum, China has only allowed the people to jump halfway. And as the people tried to push their luck, demanding more, China decided to simply scrap the plan and go back to square 1: with all the power going to China. 

Thus, this led to the Umbrella Movement.

But in my eyes, and the people’s eyes, this “one country, two systems” does not exist. While both sides genuinely want this plan to work, it’s just not cutting it. Both sides have different ideals that are on the opposite ends of the political spectrum, making it extremely difficult to get both to agree to a solution, let alone a consensus. Beijing supports communism, one China, and total control, whereas the millennials of Hong Kong yearn for democracy, independency, and freedom. Because of this, protesters flocked the streets in response to President Xi Jinping’s recent visit to Hong Kong for the inauguration of Carrie Lam (another pro-China candidate) and the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong being returned to China.

President Xi Jinping visits Hong Kong for the first time to celebrate Hong Kong’s 20th anniversary of being returned to China and to see the inauguration of Carrie Lam
Picture Citation: http://www.ejinsight.com/20170412-xi-praises-carrie-lam-reminds-her-of-challenges-that-lie-ahead/

This is the first time the Chinese President has ever visited Hong Kong, in the 20 years of it being returned to China. Yet for some strange reason, no protesters were there to give him a “friendly” welcome. Why? Because former Umbrella Movement leaders and other activists are languishing in police custody after being arrested the night before. 

My take on this event:

On Saturday, July 1, 2017, I decided to go to Victoria Peak to be able to see the protests myself. People were milling everywhere, bright yellow flags tied on the barricades with police on standby. Protestors held microphones as they yelled, “Till our dreams come true we fight on,” passing out posters at the same time. Several different booths were erected around the streets, each promoting their own view on democracy. 

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While these protests were chock-full with hope, diversity, and ideas, will consensus truly be possible for both sides? The concern that the Chinese central government is undermining Hong Kong’s more politically liberal traditions, despite its promise to give it a high degree of autonomy under the “one country, two systems” principle, is one that must be taken under serious concern by both the people and the Hong Kong and China government, or there will be conflicts till Hong Kong is finally absorbed by China in 2047.


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