It’s been 20 years since China adopted the one country, two systems (OCTS) policy with Hong Kong. However, it has been a bumpy ride so far. There have been several social and civil matters left unsolved, and the population of Hong Kong has been largely divided into two groups: the pro-democracy — made up of the idealistic and Western-influenced youth, and the pro-establishment — consisting of the elderly and those seeking to retain the already established and “stable” political system. The recent debate on the matter has brought to light two important questions: Has OCTS worked in Hong Kong, and will it ever work in Taiwan?
Is OCTS working in Hong Kong?
In the past 10 years, there have been significant changes in Beijing’s approach toward Hong Kong. China has become more assertive in its presence in Hong Kong. It has also sent out hints that the Chinese government will remove the arrangement altogether if they feel that the one country could be disadvantaged by the growing sentiments of independence in Hong Kong.
Democratic Party member Lee Wing-tat, who has been vocal about his position on the communist rulers in Beijing, states that the Chinese officials:
“actually intrude into the core values of Hong Kong, about freedom, the court system, and also about whether we [Hong Kong] enjoy the right to elect our own government. There are so many promises in the past, and you can say that most or all were broken in the past 20 years.”
The differences between China and Hong Kong can be strikingly demonstrated by the simple application of freedom of expression in the individual “systems.” According to Hong Kong’s basic law, citizens of Hong Kong have the full freedom to express themselves. On the other hand, the Chinese government strictly regulates and monitors public criticism and even opinion.
The debate over the students’ right to express themselves with slogans of independence for Hong Kong and the Chinese university’s steps to condemn them has created quite a stir, highlighting that the people in Hong Kong prefer their system over China’s. Ever since China’s proposed amendments to Article 23 in 2003 and its control over Hong Kong’s electoral process, China has lost the confidence of the people in Hong Kong. As a result, since then, it has tried to alter the impression of Mainland China’s people toward Hong Kong, which has significantly impacted the opinions of OCTS at both ends. The people of Hong Kong also feel that China focuses more on one country, and question China’s sincerity and credibility toward holding up their end of the deal.
At the end of last year, President Xi Jinping reiterated the idea that China and Taiwan can come together under the OCTS policy. However, Ma Ying-jeou, Taiwan’s president, has outright denied the possibility, stating that such a move would cost Taiwan its sovereignty and freedom. Taiwan is also paying close attention to the happenings in Hong Kong and sincerely prefers to stay distanced from China.
The people of Taiwan also identify themselves as Taiwanese as opposed to Chinese. They do not accept the Chinese political system, and prefer to live in a democratic liberal society. The recent events of China’s involvement in Hong Kong’s electoral process have highlighted to the Taiwanese that their democracy would be threatened under the OCTS, especially since China focuses more on the one country and less on the two systems.
The OCTS is certainly having a tough time in Hong Kong at the moment; however, it is quite apparent that the system stands no chance in Taiwan as the people are well in control of their freedom rights and do not hesitate to use them. The Taiwanese government isn’t in favor of China as well, and will never encourage any such discussions between the two.
The question then is whether China will resort to force to bring Taiwan under its reign?