Breach of promise undermines China’s credibility

China’s promise not to change Hong Kong’s social system, based on freedom and democracy, for 50 years has been broken only halfway through.

The administration of Chinese President Xi Jinping must recognize that its heavy-handed rule of Hong Kong has drawn international criticism and undermined China’s credibility.

Friday marked 25 years since Hong Kong was returned to China by the United Kingdom.

At a ceremony in Hong Kong, Xi said, “The implementation of the principle of patriots administering Hong Kong has been ensured,” adding that “it has served to maintain Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, and it holds bright prospects for the future.” The Chinese president also asserted that the policy of “one country, two systems” will be firmly maintained.

This is the first time that Xi has left mainland China since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. His arrival in Hong Kong by land must have been an attempt to demonstrate that Hong Kong is an integral part of the mainland. It appears that Xi hopes to parade Hong Kong’s stability as his own achievement before the Chinese Communist Party’s National Congress later this year, with which Xi aims to entrench his long-term regime.

However, what has actually happened over the past two years is the Chinafication of Hong Kong with the destruction of Hong Kong’s “high degree of autonomy,” which the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration promised to maintain for 50 years after the return to the mainland. The principle of “one country, two systems” has become such in name only.

The Hong Kong National Security Law introduced by China has uprooted Hong Kong residents’ freedom of speech and assembly. A misguided reform of the electoral system has resulted in only those recognized by the authorities as “patriots” being able to run for office, and the pro-democracy faction has lost its base.

Both the chief executive and chief secretary for administration, the top two political officers of the Hong Kong government, who took office on Friday, are former security officials and have advocated for integration with mainland China. There are fears that suppression of the pro-democracy camp, surveillance of residents and control of foreign businesses and media will increase further.

What Xi is touting as his “achievement” is nothing more than the imposition of Chinese-style rule in Hong Kong and the elimination of residents who object to it.

Textbooks to be used in Hong Kong schools from September are said to describe Hong Kong not as a British colony but as an occupied territory. This is in line with the Chinese government’s assertion that China never gave up its sovereignty over Hong Kong, but it runs against historical fact.

According to an opinion poll, 70% of residents said they consider themselves “Hong Kongers,” while only 30% said they are “Chinese.” Doesn’t this indicate that identity cannot be changed easily, even if a system is imposed by force?

Xi advocates the peaceful unification of Taiwan based on the principle of “one country, two systems,” but the current situation in Hong Kong shows that this is nothing more than propaganda contrary to the facts.

This reality has made the international community even more alarmed about a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan. It is only China that regards its rule of Hong Kong as a success.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 2, 2022)