7 The future of "one country,
of the erosion of Hong Kong's autonomy
83. "One country, two systems" was an elegant
compromise that has brought great success to Hong Kong SAR since
1997. However, there is clearly a strong feeling amongst some
people in Hong Kong that "one country" is increasingly
infringing on "two systems." Of the several hundred
submissions we received in response to our call for evidence,
the vast majority were from individuals in Hong Kong worried about
the perceived erosion of the Special Administrative Region's autonomy.
As leader of the Democratic Party Emily Lau told us, "people
just think that things are not going in the right direction."
84. Perceived clashes between the political structures
and cultures of China and Hong Kong formed a major strand of these
submissions. The restrictive terms of the SCNPC's decision on
the method for electing the Chief Executive in 2017 were cited
almost across the board as evidence that China was unwilling to
grant Hong Kong the "high degree of autonomy" promised
in the Joint Declaration and Basic Law. Some written submissions
also alleged that the Chinese government and its liaison office
in Hong Kong have been interfering directly in Hong Kong's affairs,
for example by lobbying members of the Election Committee during
elections for Chief Executive.
Even where submissions stopped short of accusing China of direct
intervention in Hong Kong, there was a general sense that Hong
Kong's government was too willing to allow China to dictate policy.
Human Rights Watch summarised this argument when it said that
many people feel that Hong Kong's leadership "is adopting
policies that reflect China's interests while ignoring the opinions,
needs, and rights of ordinary Hong Kong people."
Alan Lung of the Hong Kong Democratic Foundation, however, cautioned
that this view reflected, at least in part, a clash of political
cultures. He suggested that a certain level of tension between
China's system of government and the "very diehard liberalism"
of Hong Kong is natural.
He added that in his view Hong Kong is "not totally faultless",
because the average Hong Kong person "really does not understand
the Chinese system" or Chinese aspirations.
85. The other major concern raised in many submissions
related to social and demographic changes thought to be making
Hong Kong more "Chinese", thus threatening Hong Kong's
cultural identity. These included concerns about the increasing
use of Putonghua (Mandarin Chinese) as a medium of instruction
in schools, rather than the Cantonese language native to Hong
Kong. Many submissions
also argued that high rates of immigration and tourism from mainland
China were changing or threatening Hong Kong's cultural identity
and social fabric.
According to Dr Malte Kaeding, an academic expert on social movements
and identity in Hong Kong, recent years have seen the emergence
of a particular "Hong Kong identity" in reaction to
this fear of the alleged "mainlandisation" of Hong Kong.
This identity, which Dr Kaeding says is especially prominent among
young people, emphasises Hong Kong's distinctiveness from mainland
Chinese people and culture.
Dr Kaeding's research indicated that this "social polarisation"
was one factor contributing to the rise of new "pan-democratic"
parties and movements advocating more radical and confrontational
approaches to democratic reforms than established organisations
like the Democratic Party.
86. The depth of concern in Hong Kong about potential
threats to its autonomy should not be dismissed. However, it can
also be taken as an indication of the vigilance and robustness
with which Hong Kong people continue to monitor and defend "one
country, two systems". For example, Human Rights Watch cited
the proposed introduction of a "national education"
curriculum in schools, similar to "mainland educational propaganda",
as evidence of a China-backed policy aimed at undermining Hong
Kong's autonomy and identity.
Yet these proposals were shelved in 2012, after widespread public
opposition and protests led by then 15-year-old student Joshua
Wong. As Dr Tim Summers told us, this case could be perceived
as showing "two systems" pushing back effectively against
the expansion of the scope of "one country".
This view was echoed by the Foreign Secretary in his foreword
to the six-monthly report covering July to December 2014, where
he wrote: "the scrutiny and debate wherever [Hong Kong's]
autonomy is perceived to be under threat is itself perhaps the
greatest testament to the power and resilience" of the "one
country, two systems" concept.
87. The belief that China is eroding Hong Kong's
autonomy is strongly held by many people in Hong Kong, reflecting
an intertwined combination of legal and political developments
and questions of changing identity, language and culture. These
complex issues are key to understanding the context of developments
in Hong Kong, and the FCO's reporting should reflect these nuances
of public opinion more accurately as part of its overall assessment
of the functioning of "one country, two systems" in
the six-monthly reports.
Hong Kong's political and economic
88. The increasing strain on "one country, two
systems" has been most acutely demonstrated during recent
and ongoing debates over political and constitutional reform.
As polarisation deepens in the run-up to LegCo's consideration
of the electoral package for 2017, concerns are mounting that
Hong Kong is facing a potential crisis of governance. Without
the public confidence conferred by a mandate from the electorate,
Hong Kong's government may find it increasingly difficult to make
and implement tough decisions needed to maintain Hong Kong's stability
89. The demand for greater democracy in Hong Kong
is more than an abstract concern: it reflects the understandable
desire of Hong Kong's people to have an accountable government
that responds to their needs and interests. The status quo is
not sustainable in the long term, and if the current constitutional
stalemate continues it could soon threaten the open business climate
and stability that underpins Hong Kong's enviable prosperity and
growth. In our view, this tension can only be resolved by meaningful
progress toward democracy, guided by a transparent process in
line with the Basic Law, in which both the Hong Kong people and
the Chinese government can have confidence.
The UK Government's handling
of UK-Hong Kong relations
90. 30 years after the signing of the Sino-British
Joint Declaration, the UK retains an enduring commitment to the
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Hong Kong is one of the
UK's most important partners in Asia, home to some 250,000 UK
citizens and a further 3.4 million British nationals (overseas).
It is clear to us that many people believe the UK has a special
responsibility to defend the distinct legal, social and economic
systems that constitute its legacy in Hong Kong. Although the
governments of China and Hong Kong SAR may play down the UK's
obligations toward Hong Kong, we are satisfied that the FCO has
been firm in its commitment to monitor and uphold the Joint Declaration.
91. We encountered a perception in some submissions
and among witnesses that the UK Government is overly cautious
in public statements on issues relating to Hong Kong, in order
to avoid upsetting trade and investment relations with China.
This belief is clearly both pervasive and damaging to the UK's
reputation in Hong Kong, which is in its own right an important
partner for the UK Government and UK businesses. We consider that
this perception has been exacerbated by the FCO's lack of clarity
in stating its expectations for the constitutional reform process,
and also by its decision not to summon the Chinese Ambassador
to the UK after his government denied us entry into Hong Kong.
The Minister of State assured us that the UK's relationship with
China is "extremely good at the moment" and that the
UK is a "genuine partner for China".
92. We are concerned that the FCO's lack of clarity
in expressing its views on political and constitutional developments
in Hong Kong may be damaging the UK's reputation there. We welcome,
however, the FCO's emphasis on building a genuine partnership
between the UK and China. A strong relationship should enable
the UK and China to exchange views on Hong Kong's political and
constitutional development openly and in a spirit of cooperation,
even where they may disagree. A democratic, stable and prosperous
Hong Kong is good for the people of Hong Kong SAR, good for China,
and good for the UK. Britain has an enduring moral responsibility
to see that Hong Kong achieves this goal and to ensure that the
principles, legal obligations and spirit of the Joint Declaration
remain as respected today as they were in 1984 and 1997.
206 Q204 Back
Hong Kong 2020 (HNG 0490) para 1.1; Chan Sheung Man (HNG 0487)
para 2 Back
Asia Public Affairs and Social Services Society, University of
Manchester (HNG 0549) paras 4-6; Kyle Chan (and 78 others in similar
petition) (HNG 0498) para 3 Back
Human Rights Watch (HNG 0741) para 13 Back
Qq121-122; Hin-wah Leung (HNG 0614) para 23; Chan Sheung Man (HNG 0487)
para 2; Paul Phillips (HNG 0491) para II.d.7; Chan Sheung Man
(HNG 0487) paras 14-15; Yiu Shing Ching (and 290 others in similar
petition) (HNG 0296) para 38 Back
Mavis Lung (and 177 others in similar petition) (HNG 0075) para
II.4; Yiu Shing Ching (and 290 others in similar petition) (HNG 0296)
para 4; Kyle Chan (and 78 others in similar petition) (HNG 0498)
para 1.b. Although immigration generally is a matter for Hong
Kong's government under the Basic Law, migration from mainland
China to Hong Kong is controlled and managed by Beijing. Back
Malte Kaeding (HNG 0707) para 3 Back
Malte Kaeding (HNG 0707) para 4, Q105 Back
Malte Kaeding (HNG 0707) para 2 Back
Human Rights Watch (HNG 0741) para 13 Back
Tim Summers (HNG 0607) para 17 Back
Foreign and Commonwealth Office, The Six-monthly Report on Hong Kong: 1 July to 31 December 2014,
February 2015, p 3 Back
Q337; Hong Kong Government News, "LCQ5: The Joint Declaration
on the Question of Hong Kong", Press Release, 17 December
Qq21, 84, 193, 206; Hong Kong 2020 (HNG 0490) para 4.15; Deryck
Y K Chan (HNG 0473) para 23; Paul Phillips (HNG 0491) para IV.h Back