HONG KONG: One Country, One System?

LAUREN CHEN WRITES – Media censorship in Hong Kong is on the rise, but it’s not just press freedom that’s at stake.

Instead, say Samson Yuen and Kitty Ho of The Diplomat, at risk are the core values that have until now let the “Pearl of the Orient” shine. And it begs the question: Is “One Country, Two Systems” just a façade behind which Beijing will force Hong Kong into Party compliance?

Pro-democracy activists are flustered. They complain that hands-off promises from the mainland have been broken, and they now threaten to “Occupy Central,” a civil disobedience campaign that would seal off the city’s business district, unless Beijing allows open and direct nominations for a new chief executive in 2017.

Occupy’s organizers are willing to risk their careers to gain the right to put candidates forward, instead of passively accepting a committee packed with Beijing loyalists.

Zhang Dejiang, head of the National People’s Congress and top official in charge of Hong Kong affairs, warns of disastrous consequences that will follow if Hong Kong were to adopt a western-style democracy with direct election or universal suffrage. He states that if universal suffrage is to be secured, it must be implemented in accordance with the Basic Law. However, he and other Beijing officials believe the definition of this “universal” model is up for interpretation.

In response to Zhang, renowned Stanford University  Professor Larry Diamond said, “Beijing has the power to impose constraints on the election process in Hong Kong. But it does not have the right to redefine what democracy is and is not.” Diamond argued that universal suffrage is a generic model and “every country that adopted democracy for the first time was adopting a ‘foreign’ model.” Diamond thinks Hong Kong is now ready for democracy.

The question remains: what is more disastrous? Maintaining the fragile peace found in the current “One Country Two Systems” relationship by allowing Beijing loyalists to run the show? Or keeping the promise of direct and free elections of the chief executive?

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