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“One Country, Two Systems” under threat in China: US

Legislation 'could undermine Hong Kong's autonomy,' says State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus.

China's

Anadolu |
The U.S. is gravely concerned by proposed amendments that would allow Hong Kong to extradite its residents to face trial in mainland China. “The continued erosion of the one country, two systems framework puts at risk Hong Kong’s long-established special status in international affairs,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said Monday, referring to the post-colonial understanding in which Hong Kong was to retain its own legal framework for at least 50 years.
The People of China not on Board

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets Sunday to protest the government’s controversial extradition bill with people carrying banners reading “No Extradition” through packed city streets.

Protesters claim that, if passed, the amendments will put many at risk for extradition to China on politically-motivated charges and have called for Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam to resign over the matter. Ortagus told reporters at the State Department that the mass demonstrations “clearly show the public’s opposition to the proposed amendments”.

Human Rights at Stake

“The United States shares the concern of many in Hong Kong that the lack of procedural protections in the proposed amendments could undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy and negatively impact the territory’s longstanding protections of human rights, fundamental freedoms and democratic values,” she said.

Read more: Ai Weiwei To West: Tackle China On Human Rights Whatever The Cost

Lam on Monday refused to drop the legislation. However, she vowed to reach out to critics.

“The government would put on record its commitments to human rights safeguards as part of any future process,” she told reporters, promising to seek additional input from the public over the legislation.

One Country:Two Systems? 

(Background analysis added by GVS news desk)

“One country, two systems” an issue being raised by the US state department is a constitutional principle formulated by Deng Xiaoping, the Paramount Leader of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), when he advocated the reunification of China during the early 1980s. And when Britain finally ceded the colony to China, it 1997, it was under this principle that had to continue till next 50 year – still 2047.

Deng had suggested to Britain that there would be only one China, but distinct Chinese regions such as Hong Kong and Macau could retain their own economic and administrative systems, while the rest of the PRC (or simply “China”) uses the socialism with Chinese characteristics system. Under the principle, each of the two regions could continue to have its own governmental system, legal, economic and financial affairs, including trade relations with foreign countries.

Hong Kong was a colony of the United Kingdom, ruled by a governor for 156 years from 1841 (except for four years of Japanese occupation during WWII) until 1997, when it was returned to Chinese sovereignty. China had to accept some conditions, stipulated in the Sino-British Joint Declaration, such as the drafting and adoption of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution before its return.

The Basic Law agreed between both sides, ensured Hong Kong will retain its capitalist economic system and own currency (the Hong Kong Dollar), legal system, legislative system, and people’s rights and freedom for fifty years, as a special administrative region (SAR) of China. Set to expire in 2047, the current arrangement has permitted Hong Kong to function as its own entity in many international settings (e.g., World Trade Organization and the Olympics) rather than as a part of China.

As per this arrangement, Chinese renminbi is still not legal tender in Hong Kong. Likewise, the Hong Kong Dollar is not accepted in stores in China. With this arrangement, a permit or visa is required when passing between the borders of Hong Kong and China, and people in Hong Kong generally hold Hong Kong SAR passports rather than Chinese passports.

The official languages are a major factor besides the history of the former colony that has made Hong Kong and China distinct from each other, as Cantonese and English are the most widely used languages in Hong Kong while Mandarin is the official language of China.

The central government in Beijing maintains control over Hong Kong’s foreign affairs as well as the legal interpretation of the Basic Law. The latter has led democracy advocates and some Hong Kong residents to argue that the territory has yet to achieve universal suffrage as promised by the Basic Law, leading to mass demonstrations in 2014.

China has been increasingly coming under western criticism regarding what western governments and media describe as its oppressive policies after the president Xi Jinping came into power and announced his indefinite rule. Western institutions considered that China is getting more and more authoritarian following the March 2018 constitutional amendments.

Western media argues that Jinping’s government is seen to oppress and persecute religious minorities, specially the Muslim community; it has undermined the people’s right to free speech and political participation. Human rights defenders in China continue to face imprisonment, forced disappearances, and arbitrary detention.

However Chinese government points out that most of this is western propaganda. Chinese officials and academics argue that the western governments and media have identified China as the main challenge and threat with rise of Chinese economy and its launch of Belt Road Initiative (BRI) of which CPEC is an integral part. However, the government of China maintains strict control over the internet, mass media and academia and it is often not possible for outsiders to verify the facts independently.
Anadolu with additional input by GVS news desk.