HK, Macao take different roads to reach same goal
Updated: 2017-05-25 07:02
By Paul Yeung(HK Edition)
Implementing "One Country, Two Systems" and the Basic Law comprehensively and accurately is a continuous task for the two special administrative regions - Hong Kong and Macao. Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the National People's Congress Standing Committee and the top State leader in charge of Hong Kong and Macao affairs, visited Macao early this month and commented that the "One Country, Two Systems" principle was fully implemented in Macao, with the central government exercising its full jurisdiction over the city.
Zhang praised Macao people for their patriotism, pragmatism and efforts to maintain national security. Some commentators suggested that even though Zhang did not specifically mention Hong Kong in his remarks, he was indeed sending a message to both SARs that Macao had set an example for Hong Kong on how to meet Beijing's expectations.
But a shallow comparison of Hong Kong with Macao is off the point as each has its own unique historical path. There is much difference between the two cities in terms of population size, economic structure and especially political and social environment, which is rooted in their own history. One of the most crucial historical events that set them on different development paths was the "123 Incident" on December 3, 1966 in Macao, which led to a successful anti-colonial movement, resulting in equal treatment and recognition of Chinese identity. Since then, pro-Chinese trade unions and social leaders have wielded great influence over Macao and paved the way for a politically stable Macao in the post-handover era. Hong Kong has a different story. In the colonial period, British rule was strong and pervasive in Hong Kong, with its impact still being felt after the handover. The political ecosystem of Hong Kong is much more complicated than Macao's. We should not ignore this difference when comparing the two.
Zhang is the top State leader in charge of Hong Kong and Macao affairs; he fully understands the above-mentioned differences. Hence his key message should not be interpreted as making a comparison of two SARs but as a demonstration. What did he intend to demonstrate then? I believe it is the relationship between the central and SAR governments, as dictated by the practice of "One Country". This trip is different in nature from the previous one, when he was invited by the SAR government to attend some special events. As Zhang said this time, he aimed to inspect the city's robust development and offer encouragement on behalf of the central government. Zhang demonstrated a formal and official inspection trip by a State leader to an SAR. During this trip, he focused mainly on the job done by the SAR government and gave advice on the future development of Macao. We can expect a similar practice will be done in Hong Kong later on.
We should not just focus on Zhang's praise words for Macao but also his advice. In a function attended by more than 100 representatives from various sectors, Zhang delivered a speech, advising Macao to "cherish its experience; strengthen its foundations and foster development". According to the Premier Li Keqiang's annual Government Work Report delivered at the start of the National People's Congress session in March, the central government will push on with the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area project. The development of Macao, as far as Zhang is concerned, has to do with Hong Kong. The two SARs are expected to work closely together under a major national strategy in the future.
If we understand the key message from the central government, we will realize that any unfavorable comparison of Hong Kong with Macao is unwarranted. The key point is the correct implementation of "One Country, Two Systems". There are actually "three systems" to be implemented under the innovative political design as Macao and Hong Kong have their own systems. There are also two Basic Laws, with Macao's version providing its chief executive with more power to lead an executive-led government. Thanks to that arrangement, Macao has had an easier job in implementing the central government's comprehensive jurisdiction over Macao while Hong Kong has faced much more political obstacles in doing so.
The 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to Chinese sovereignty is coming soon. We should focus on our own situation and find our own way to implement "One Country, Two Systems" accurately and comprehensively. As the old idiom goes, "All roads lead to Rome". In the context of Hong Kong and Macao, it is also true that "All roads lead to 'One Country'". A thorough review of our experience in the past 20 years, especially on the relationship between Hong Kong and the central government, is necessary. It should be placed on the agenda of the SAR government and any civil groups that care about the future of "One Country, Two Systems".
(HK Edition 05/25/2017 page8)