Yi-Zheng Lian’s argument in his article “Is Hong Kong Really Part of China?” that Hong Kong is “faring no better politically” than it was under British rule is preposterous. He must realize the head of Hong Kong’s executive branch is now born and raised locally, when it used to be appointed by London; its judiciary is independent, whereas the highest judicial power was held by the U.K.’s Privy Council until 1997. Moreover, direct elections for Hong Kong’s legislature weren’t introduced until 1991, whereas currently more than half of the legislative councilors are democratically elected.
Whether Hong Kong fared better under British rule has no relevance with his conjecture that “Hong Kong would be better off on its own”, a classic example of ignoratio elenchi. Further, Hong Kong is already enjoying a high degree of autonomy under the “One Country, Two Systems” framework.
But let’s assume what Lian meant is independence, in which case Lian fails to address how Hong Kong would survive economically, politically and socially. As early as Alexander Grantham’s governorship in the 1950s, it was clear that independence was never an option. As Margaret Thatcher acutely identified, Hong Kong depends on water supply from the China-controlled Dongjiang. Also, industries like finance and trade, collectively accounting for 40% of Hong Kong’s GDP, will undoubtedly collapse if the city ceases to act as a gateway to the much larger Mainland China market.
Lian must be careful not to conflate Hong Kong’s status quo with colonialism. Labelling Hong Kong as such is legitimizing Western imperialism in the 19th and 20th Century, which former governor Chris Patten conceded “none … would wish or seek to condone” from today’s vantage point.
Finally, seeking to establish independence on the grounds that Hong Kongers are “racially, culturally and linguistically distinct” from Han Chinese is both factually wrong and ideologically dangerous. A significant proportion of Hong Kong’s population today are descendants of Han Chinese refugees in the 1950s and 1960s. It is also a blatant rejection of 21st century pluralism, one of Hong Kong’s core values.
Tony Shen, One Country Two Systems Youth Forum
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