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Reforms excluding ‘one country’ ‘doomed to fail’

China Daily Asia | Updated: 2019-11-20 10:25
Senior Counsel Ronny Tong Ka-wah talks to China Daily in an interview. [Photo/China Daily]

Any demand for political reform in Hong Kong that goes beyond the "one country, two systems" framework or excludes "one country" is doomed to fail, says senior counsel Ronny Tong Ka-wah.

The executive councilor warned that calling for the "liberation of Hong Kong", as championed by many protesters in the city, while waving the flags of foreign countries will not bring any democratic reform in the SAR.

As violent protesters seized on stronger anti-China sentiment and launched numerous attacks on mainland-linked businesses and mainland people while chanting the slogan "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times", Tong said those claiming to strive for greater democracy were doing the city a disservice.

In fact, doing this would deny Hong Kong people the chance to achieve universal suffrage in the near future, Tong told China Daily on Monday. "They're doing exactly the opposite."

Such behavior would give Beijing the impression that the entire campaign is against China exercising "full sovereignty" over the SAR, he added.

A spokesperson for the State Council's Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office said in September that a small group of rioters in Hong Kong intends to confront the central government, achieve total autonomy, and jeopardize "one country, two systems".

"They want to see Hong Kong in chaos, paralyze the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government, and seize power from the administration, thus turning Hong Kong into an independent or semi-independent political entity," said spokesperson Yang Guang.

Noting that universal suffrage is among the protesters' five demands, Tong pointed out that according to the Basic Law — the SAR's constitutional document — universal suffrage in Hong Kong means universal suffrage under and within the framework of "one country, two systems" and the Basic Law.

Therefore, trying to advocate the kind of democracy that would stand as a denial of China's sovereignty over Hong Kong, or excluding the "one country" part, is simply not acceptable under "one country, two systems" and is bound to fail, he said.

"You must respect the constitutional setup and constitutional order of the entire nation, that Hong Kong is not an independent state, but a city within China," the barrister stressed. Likewise, he added, in the United Kingdom, you cannot have democracy, and yet decry the UK is a united kingdom.

In Tong's view, the best chance for Hong Kong to continue political reform is to have the central government assured that national security and integrity would not be adversely affected.

According to articles 45 and 68 of the Basic Law, the election of members of the Legislative Council shall gradually lead to universal suffrage in the light of the SAR's actual situation, while the chief executive is chosen through universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures.

Currently, half of the 70 seats in LegCo come from direct elections — up from 20 directly elected seats in 1998 — while the chief executive is elected by a broadly representative Election Committee comprising 1,200 members — up from 400 members who chose the SAR's first chief executive.

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