World / Europe

Martin Jacques: HK democracy idea 'introduced by China'

By ZHANG CHUNYAN in London ( Updated: 2014-10-03 20:19

A renowned British academic said Beijing has overwhelmingly honored its commitment to the principle of "One Country, Two Systems" since the Hong Kong handover in 1997 and that most protesters in the former British colony are driven by a sense of dislocation.

Martin Jacques made the comments in an article headlined "China is HK's future - not its enemy" that appeared in British newspaper The Guardian on Tuesday.

Jacques is best known for his best-selling book When China Rules the World: the End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order. He is also a columnist for The Guardian and New Statesman.

In the article, he said it should be remembered that for 155 years until it was handed over to China, Hong Kong never enjoyed a semblance of democracy under the British. The city's 28 governors were appointed by the British government.

"The idea of any kind of democracy was first introduced by the Chinese government," he wrote, adding that in 1990 the latter adopted the Basic Law, which included the commitment that in 2017 Hong Kong's chief executive would be elected by universal suffrage. Beijing also spelt out that the nomination of candidates would be a matter for a nominating committee.

"This proposal should be seen in the context of what was a highly innovative - and, to Westerners, completely unfamiliar - constitutional approach by the Chinese," he wrote in the article, adding that the Chinese meant what they offered.

Jacques lived in Hong Kong for three years from 1998.

The article also said that Hong Kong's relationship with the Chinese mainland has been changing rapidly. "Herein lies a fundamental reason for the present unrest - the growing sense of dislocation among a section of Hong Kong's population."

During the 20 years or so before the handover, Hong Kong enjoyed its golden era - not because of the British but because of the mainlanders, Jacques wrote.

He believes that Hong Kong is the beneficiary of Beijing's reform and opening-up policy — it became the entry point to the mainland, and as a result attracted multinational companies and banks that wanted to gain access to the mainland market.

Hong Kong has gradually lost its role as the gateway to the mainland, he writes. Previously, the city was an unrivalled financial center, "now it is increasingly dwarfed by Shanghai. Until recently, Hong Kong was by far China's largest port - now it has been surpassed by Shanghai and Shenzhen, and Guangzhou will shortly overtake it.

"Many Hong Kong locals are struggling to come to terms with these new realities. They are experiencing a sense of displacement. They know their future is inextricably bound up with the mainland but that is very different from embracing the fact," he writes.

"There is no alternative - the Chinese mainland is the future of Hong Kong," Jacques concluded.

Besides Jacques, some British celebrities also expressed their views on Hong Kong issues.

Lord Neuberger, president of the UK Supreme Court, said in Hong Kong in August there was no evidence that the mainland Chinese government in Beijing had attempted to interfere with the judicial system in the territory.

"At the moment I detect no undermining of judicial independence," Lord Neuberger was cited. "If I felt that the independence of the judiciary in Hong Kong was being undermined then I would either have to speak out or I would have to resign as a judge."

Jim O'Neill, the retiring chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, and British economist best known for coining BRIC, the acronym that stands for Brazil, Russia, India, and China, published an article last month stating that the UK can't complain about Hong Kong.

"Once the UK signed Hong Kong back over to China, it lost its standing to complain, unless China was in breach of the letter of its commitments," he wrote.

"Indulging in nostalgia for enlightened colonialism won't help anybody," O'Neill concluded.

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