China’s Comprehensiveness on environment, social quality and governance

The Belt and Road Initiative is a master stroke in building China’s further development of its traditional five principles of foreign relations, stressing coexistence and non-interference in other countries internal affairs. The call for mutual benefits, mutual effort and mutual consultation is a refreshing departure from the old norm of often manipulative foreign aid patterned on the West. However the West tends to strain China’s Central Government’s influences on Hong Kong as a role model for Beijing’s respecting of other independent jurisdictions ignoring that in contrary to any Belt & Road country Hong Kong has been being a Special Administrative Zone ever since the British had taken charge there. Shiu Sin Por as former head of the Hong Kong government’s Central Policy Unit currently being a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference clearly is a sign for Hong Kong’s role model to support China in developing an equally efficient economy. But being part of China now Beijing’s authority speaks of “comprehensive jurisdiction”, over its Special Administrative Zones (Hong Kong and Macau) with their “high degree of autonomy” in a natural or “organic” way to allow evolution into the mutually most beneficial future to all of China’s people and their foreign relations. President Xi cited these concepts and the “one country, two systems” model as an integral part of the Communist Party’s governance ideology and canon, as he rolled out his five-yearly work report at the opening of the 19th party congress in Beijing. So why do Western media think combining comprehensive jurisdiction and high degree of autonomy in an organic way to be anything new?

„Comprehensive jurisdiction” was first mentioned when Beijing’s State Council spelled out what it called the “accurate” understanding of one country, two systems in June 2014! In 2017, it said Beijing enjoys comprehensive jurisdiction over Hong Kong being given “high degree of autonomy” to run its affairs within the frameworks authorized by Beijing. This governance codex for Hong Kong comprise of its Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, its power over defense, the special administrative zone’s foreign affairs, any political reforms, as well as the ability to appoint a chief executive, any instructions to him as well as amendments or new interpretations of the Basic Law. Hong Kong’s crucial principles such as rule of law, judicial independence, free economy and human rights – are contingent on the city maintaining a high degree of autonomy. Under Article 2 of Hong Kong‘s Basic Law, China’s legislature, the National People’s Congress, authorizes Hong Kong to exercise a high degree of autonomy and enjoy executive, legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication of cases in the city’s courts. April this year Hong Kong‘s chief executive Leung Chun-Ying said Hong Kong was enjoying the autonomy which was authorized by Beijing in 1997. That this does of course not include unilateral new interpretations or revisions of its Basic Law and mini-constitution should actually not be tackled to a problem.

The phrase “combined in an organic way” abnegates any deterministic attempts and emphasizes the mutual interests. Organic means flexibility to align to actual situations in the future and combined stands for a mutual agenda of integrating the two systems into one country until the 100th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. At the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong‘s return from British administration to the Chinese Nation President Xi cited an ancient poem to say Hong Kong had “grown ebulliently like a fast growing tree”. This invoked the metaphor of a tree to express the role of one country, two systems, stressing the anchoring role of the state for its roots. President Xi also said his central leadership will continue to support the Hong Kong government in “fulfilling their constitutional responsibility of safeguarding China’s sovereignty, security and development interests”. Therefore lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee sees no reason for Western pessimisms that the central government would “tighten up its control over Hong Kong,” as long as Hong Kong and Macau people respect that Beijing’s authority can‘t be taken less important than the cities’ semi-autonomous powers.

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