News / Asia

Hong Kong Democracy Activists Rebuke China's White Paper

Protesters raise a mock "white paper", left, released by Beijing State Council on Tuesday saying it holds ultimate control over the former British colony, outside the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong, June 11, 2014.
Protesters raise a mock "white paper", left, released by Beijing State Council on Tuesday saying it holds ultimate control over the former British colony, outside the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong, June 11, 2014.
Chinese officials in Beijing issued a policy paper Tuesday reminding Hong Kong residents of the city's status as part of China.  The paper led to protests in Hong Kong, where pro-democracy activists say the document is intended as intimidation against supporters of broader political reforms in the former British colony.

Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong said that Beijing is twisting the meaning of “one country, two systems,” in an effort to curb public support for greater democracy.

They are responding to a rare official paper issued by China's State Council on Tuesday.

In it, Beijing said the former British colony has enjoyed increased democracy and a high level of autonomy after returning to China in 1997, but also called such an autonomy “not an inherent power, but one that comes solely from the authorization by the central leadership.”

“The basic thrust of the white paper is that whatever power Hong Kong has, the power actually comes from the central authorities and we should always place one country ahead of two systems,” explained Joseph Cheng, professor of political science at the City University of Hong Kong.

Despite being a part of China, Hong Kong enjoys freedoms that are lacking in the mainland.

But there have been growing concerns that China's looming presence in Hong Kong's affairs could endanger the city's independent press, and its vibrant civil society.

The white paper acknowledged some challenges in relations between Beijing and Hong Kong.

“The practice of ‘one country, two systems’ has come to face new circumstances and new problems,” the paper said. “Some people in Hong Kong have yet felt comfortable with the changes. Still some are even confused or lopsided in their understanding of "one country, two systems" and the Basic Law.”

Discussion about the role of the mainland in Hong Kong's affairs is particularly sensitive as the city-state is deciding details of universal suffrage, which Beijing has promised for 2017 and 2020.

China has ruled out the possibility that citizens will pick candidates for the top office, and says a broadly representative nominating committee will decide who can run.

“This white paper is part of the propaganda campaign from the central authorities to warn Hong Kong people and to exert pressure on Hong Kong people to accept an undemocratic electoral system which will soon be imposed by Beijing on the Hong Kong community,” Cheng noted.

Kinman Chan is one of the organizers of Occupy Central - a movement that plans to occupy downtown Hong Kong in July should the electoral law fail to meet international democratic standards.
He said that the white paper is intended as a warning against political activism in the coming months, but it might backfire.

“This document might in fact help mobilize more Hong Kong people to express their view, to get their voice heard,” said Chan.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the Hong Kong Bar Association rebuked Beijing's white paper saying it downplays the independence of the courts in Hong Kong.

Judges and courts cannot be regarded as administrators with a political task, the statement read.

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Comment Sorting
by: HK from: Canada
June 20, 2014 2:20 AM
As a British colony for the past 100 years, people in Hongkong have never had democracy. Why UK did't allow Hongkong to realize democracy and used dictatorship to suppress Hongkong people for the past 100 years?

Hongkong people fear to protest UK under UK governance before because UK police has guns. Shame on these Hongkong people. If they have fighted with UK for democracy from 1900-1997, they would be enjoying democracy right now with any interruptions.

Why only fight with China instead of UK? This makes China look feeble, weak like a coward. When Japanese invaded Hongkong in WWII, no much Hongkong people have fighted with these Fascists because they knew these Japanese Fascists would kill them if they interrupt ruling of Japan over Hongkong at that time.

by: Wangchuk from: NY
June 13, 2014 10:01 AM
China's recent White Paper on Hong Kong proves Hong Kong doesn't have genuine autonomy. They have limited autonomy which can be expanded or contracted as the Party wishes. All HK laws & judicial decisions are subject to review by the NPC which is controlled by the CCP. And only "patriotic" citizens can govern HK which actually means only those loyal & subservient to the CCP. China promised HK democracy in 1997 but in 2014 they still haven't delivered on their promise. Now China admits that what freedom & autonomy HK currently has can be taken away anytime the CCP wants. This is one of the big problems in a country ruled not by law but by a one-party system that is above the law.

by: Frankie Fook-lunLeung from: Los Angeles
June 11, 2014 5:47 PM
Hong Kong and China now are respectively different from what they were in 1997. Deng Xiao Ping had warned the Chinese leaders to be cautious and not assertive in dealing with the outside world. Now China has put herself on the world stage, Xi Jin Ping can afford to be more assertive and daring. Secondly, China has over 17 years of dealing with H K and the outside world. It reckons that it will do no harm to H K or China to be the real boss in claim full control over H K. At least, the UK which signed the Joint Declaration has maintained a rather lame position on the post-1997 development of H K.
In Response

by: Wangchuk from: NY
June 13, 2014 10:08 AM
Essentially what you're saying is that the CCP decides what is harmful or not to HK, not the HK people. The White Paper shows HK's autonomy is limited and its freedom can be taken away anytime China wants. It's an example that how arbitrary power in a one-party state can be wielded with impunity w/o regard for rule of law. HK was promised genuine autonomy & democracy in 1997 but China now says HK is not going to get it.
In Response

by: Adam9 from: Dong Nai, VN
June 11, 2014 7:09 PM
Good analysis, Frankie !!

by: Frankie Fook-lun Leung from: Los Angeles
June 11, 2014 2:24 PM
This white paper has been prepared by the State Council for a year. It is not a knee jerk reaction of China. In fact, it is expected that China will tighten the screw over H K. First, H K is not such a big deal to China. Deng Xiao Ping's over-emphasis of H K's value to China is dispelled. Secondly, China feels insecure that foreign influences (USA in particular) are provoking H K for more democracy. It may spread across the border into the Mainland.
In Response

by: Wangchuk from: NY
June 13, 2014 10:04 AM
China's White Paper certainly surprised HK residents who thought they had genuine autonomy. Now the CCP admits HK only has limited autonomy, as a "gift" from China, and that China can take it away. The White Paper also admits that HK courts are not independent & all decisions can be reviewed & reversed by the NPC, which answers to the Party. China promised HK democracy in 1997 but they still haven't complied w/ their agreement. China also says those citizens who are "patriotic" can govern HK, which actually means only those who obey the Party.

by: meanbill from: USA
June 11, 2014 1:35 PM
A THREAT TO CHINA? -- Since the Tiananmen Square debacle, where the (PLA) Peoples Liberation Army refused to use force against the Chinese people, (because Mao promised the Chinese people, the "PLA" wouldn't ever be used against the people), the Chinese government cut their military, and tripled the police forces, and added new riot defense, and terrorists defense police forces, (and protesters and terrorists against the government, will be harshly dealt with).. .. REALLY

by: Adam9 from: Dong Nai, VN
June 11, 2014 11:36 AM
They care very much of their ways of life and want to preserve their freedoms and democracy in Hong kong. I admire these pro-democracy people in Hong Kong very much.

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