Editorial : A tale of two cities that needs not have a sting in the tail

【明報專訊】IN Beijing, a symposium was held to mark the 20th anniversary of the implementation of Macao's Basic Law. Li Zhanshu, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, made a speech at that event. Though it focuses on Macao, his speech seems more for Hong Kong's consumption. Li also made it clear that the central authorities require the same of Hong Kong and Macao in certain areas and that "Hong Kong should also have a very good grasp of the central authorities' spirit".

As China and the US are in confrontation and the international situation has sharply changed, the central authorities are increasingly concerned that foreign forces may use "one country, two systems" (OCTS) in the two cities as a chink through which to effect penetration and subversion. As far as the central authorities are concerned, something bad has happened in Hong Kong. To prevent similar things from happening in Macao, they may tighten their risk control and set up more tangible and intangible "firewalls" so as to prevent factors of instability from spilling through Hong Kong or other channels into Macao and even the mainland. About the comprehensive, faithful and effective implementation of Macao's Basic Law, Li laid out four expectations: that the governance of Macao should be strictly in compliance with the Constitution and the Basic Law; that the overall power of administration of Macao and its high degree of autonomy should be exercised in accordance with the law; that the building of sufficient national security safeguards should be carried on; and that greater efforts should be made to promote the Constitution and the Basic Law. What he said is clearly what is demanded of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong's independence is a castle in the air. The political reality is such that OCTS is still Hong Kong's only way out. As evidenced by the outbreak of the anti-amendment storm, something has gone wrong with the implementation of OCTS in Hong Kong. The central authorities deem it necessary to handle the relationship between "one country" and "two systems" properly so that their power of overall administration of the SARs and the latter's high degree of autonomy may be organically linked and effectively exercised within the OCTS framework. From Beijing's perspective, one may say Macao is the ideal model. However, Things in Macao are different from those in Hong Kong. OCTS with "Macao characteristics" might not be suitable for Hong Kong, and it might even be impossible for it to yield any of the desired effects.

Hong Kong and Macao were both western colonies, and both uphold OCTS. There is a world of difference between what the two have experienced. Their differences could easily overshadow their similarities. In Macao, the leftists notched up an outright victory in the 1966 anti-colonial struggle and seized de facto control of the city. In 1975, the Portuguese civilian government even offered to return Macao to China. The British Hong Kong authorities were the winner in the 1967 riots. As for the handover processes, Macao's was quite smooth, and there were no bitter arguments or confrontations between Portugal and China. On the contrary, as early as the Sino-British talks about the future of Hong Kong began, the British Hong Kong authorities and Beijing engaged in hard struggle and bargaining. The extent to which other parts of the world paid attention to Hong Kong was quite different.

In the Spring and Autumn Period in China, Yan Ying, a prime minister of the state of Qi, was sent as an envoy to the state of Chu, where he said, "Mandarin orange plants to the north of the Huai give off trifoliate oranges". That indicates that similar things could develop very differently under different circumstances. All from the central authorities, Hong Kong and Macao need to have proper regard to those differences that existed and actually exist between the two cities so that OCTS will, in keeping with the two SARs' peculiarities, remain stable and last long.

明報社評2019.12.04:橘越淮而為枳 澳門經驗難搬港







grasp : a person's understanding of a subject or of difficult facts

a castle in the air : a visionary or baseless project

peculiarity : a feature that only belongs to one particular person, thing, place, etc.

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