Could you explain China's thoughts on three representatives

Hong Kong

Nele Noesselt

To person

holds the chair for political science with a focus on China / East Asia at the University of Duisburg-Essen. [email protected]

"One country, two systems" - this is the formula that the Chinese head of state and party leader Xi Jinping explicitly took up in his New Year's speech in 2020 with a view to the Hong Kong and Macau special administrative areas. He emphasized that this solution formula had proven successful in the case of Macao and underlined Beijing's interest in stable structures in Hong Kong [1] - where protests flared up again at the turn of the year 2019/20, calling for greater democratization and demarcation of Hong Kong from Beijing .

The formula "one country, two systems" legitimizes and guarantees the parallel existence of socialist and capitalist economic and social structures under the umbrella of the People's Republic of China. The formula is traced back to the speeches and writings of Deng Xiaoping of the 1980s, [2] who, although he also did not hold a formal leadership position, is considered to be the leading architect and idea generator of the post-Maoist economic reforms.

After Mao's death in 1976, the People's Republic of China entered a phase of renewed state formation and administrative restructuring. One of the issues discussed was how the areas of Hong Kong and Macao, which were then still under British and Portuguese administration, could be integrated into the socialist structures of the People's Republic of China in the future. The leases that were imposed on the Chinese Empire in the course of the Opium Wars provided for a term of 99 years. [3] While Chinese observers were concerned about how the capitalist economic structures established on the European model in the two special areas could be combined with the socialist plans of the PRC, concerns about the future of the liberal social order in Hong Kong and Macao dominated on the European side. The magic formula "one country, two systems" made a transitional compromise possible, in which the Chinese side undertook to guarantee the continued existence of the liberal, capitalist system structures for a period of 50 years from the date of the transfer back. [4]

On December 19, 1984, the PR China, represented by the then Prime Minister Zhao Ziyang, and Great Britain, represented by Margaret Thatcher, signed a joint declaration on the return of Hong Kong and the annexed New Territories to the PR China on July 1, 1997 according to the formula " One country, two systems ". [5] This regulation was also enshrined in the Hong Kong Basic Law. [6]

The National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China entrusted a parliamentary council in 1985 with drafting the Basic Law. 23 of the 59 members represented Hong Kong's interests. After several rounds of consultations in Hong Kong, the Basic Law came into force on July 1, 1997 when it was transferred back to the People's Republic of China. [7] The Basic Law assigns Hong Kong the status of a Special Administrative Region. The establishment of the special structures is compatible with the constitution of the PRC of 1982. Article 5 of the Basic Law guarantees the continued existence of the capitalist system structures of Hong Kong and its liberal social order for the next 50 years. Article 45 provides that the head of the Hong Kong administration is headed by a head of government who is elected locally or selected through consultation processes and formally appointed by the central government in Beijing. In the long term, the Basic Law provides for general elections - although the wording remains vague and leaves room for interpretation. [8] According to the agreements, Hong Kong's special status would end in 2047. How the structures could then be designed is open.

Hong Kong's liberal social system stands for freedom of the press, expression and assembly. The Special Administrative Region uses traditional Chinese characters in its written language; Cantonese is spoken locally, not Mandarin. The official official and administrative languages ​​are English and Chinese. Hong Kong has its own currency, the Hong Kong dollar. The technical standards and norms of the special administrative zone are still based on the British system, as exemplified by left-hand traffic. Hong Kong residents are Chinese citizens, but have a passport from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, which often allows them to travel without a visa. Hong Kong thus stands for a high degree of autonomy - only the foreign and defense policy lies exclusively in the hands of the Chinese central government in Beijing.

Since Hong Kong was transferred back to the People's Republic of China in July 1997, critics in Hong Kong have complained that the formally guaranteed liberal social order has gradually eroded. [9] At the same time, the debate about the long-term gradual adaptation of the electoral process and the option of direct election of the head of government and the members of the Hong Kong Legislative Council has gained momentum over the years.

Nomination and election committees

The history of the Hong Kong Legislative Council exemplarily reflects the dynamics in the run-up to the return process: In the 1990s, under Chris Patten, the then British Governor General of Hong Kong, more participatory elements were introduced. In 1991 only 18 of the then 60 seats on the Legislative Council were filled by direct elections; In 1995 this proportion was increased to 30 of the seats to be allocated. However, this legislative council was dissolved after the transfer back in 1997 and replaced by a provisional council until 1998, the members of which were appointed by Beijing. [10] An election committee was set up for the following elections; universal suffrage was not introduced. The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress in Beijing, which has the power to expand (and interpret) the Basic Law, determined in 2007 that there would be no direct election of the head of government for the upcoming 2012 elections. However, the possibility of direct election for 2017 has been promised. The Standing Committee stated that the head of government should submit a report on the current situation in Hong Kong in advance of the elections, on the basis of which the specific electoral formalities should then be discussed. In addition, a nomination committee should be set up for the elections, which would draw up a list of candidates. [11]

In 2014, the Standing Committee carried out another review and comment, based on the management report submitted by Leung Chun-ying, then head of government. With a view to the possibility of direct election of the head of government in the election year 2017, the Standing Committee repeated the principle of short-term review of the situation in advance of the elections. He also emphasized in his statement that the elections in Hong Kong must respect the basic principles of the Basic Law and the decisions of the Standing Committee. In addition, the head of government must be a person who loves the country and Hong Kong ("has to be a person who loves the country and loves Hong Kong"). In addition, it was stipulated that a nomination committee should nominate two to three possible candidates for the office of head of government, whereby the approval of more than half of the members of the nomination committee is required for each nomination. [12]

On the one hand, the resolutions of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress have resulted in an increase in the number of directly elected members of the Hong Kong Legislative Council and an enlargement of the electoral committee from an initial 400 to 1200 members, which suggests a tendency to expand participatory elements. On the other hand, the imperative of loyalty formulated by the head of government in 2014 certainly reflects Beijing's concerns about endangering the fragile balance between the "two systems" through a rapidly advancing expansion of (direct) democracy. [13]

When protests began to stir in Hong Kong as early as 2014 ("umbrella movement"), these were sparked in particular by the planned establishment of a nomination committee. However, Hong Kong legal scholars also argue that basic law does not (directly) provide for free nomination of candidates. [14] The Beijing-critical opposition in Hong Kong does not share this opinion; Even among international legal scholars, there has so far been no consensus on the extent to which the establishment of an election and a nomination committee should be compatible with the basic ideas of Basic Law.

Fear of the future and protests

In general, the anti-"Chinese" protest movements in Hong Kong, which flared up again and again, testify to an identity crisis among the local population as well as increasing socio-economic tensions. The latter are further fueled by the perceived global economic and monetary rise of the People's Republic of China to one of the new superpowers. [15]

Hong Kong once functioned as the gateway to Europe, as a financial and trade hub between the socialist PRC and the capitalist West. However, as a result of the decisions of the 3rd plenary session of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on reform and opening up in 1978, the mainland China's economic system has been restructured. While the idea had initially been to limit the experiments with capitalism and market economy principles to local special economic zones, a Chinese variant of (state) capitalism ultimately prevailed.

Under the currently incumbent fifth generation of management, in addition to special economic zones, new pilot zones in particular have been established in which trade can be carried out directly in the Chinese currency renminbi. As a result, Hong Kong could lose its unique selling point as a financial and trade bridgehead between the PRC and global markets. [16] In addition, mainland investors and entrepreneurs have taken over key sectors of the Hong Kong economy. The protests in Hong Kong are not least reactions to this perceived change. For example, the expressions of displeasure by the Hong Kong population in recent years have often not primarily focused on political but rather local socio-economic (bad) developments - such as, in particular, the sharp rise in house prices and the cost of living.

The protests of 2014 had already made it clear that socio-economic concerns can have a strong mobilizing effect, particularly with regard to the younger and more educated sections of the population. This diffuse uncertainty may have been intensified by Beijing's push to establish metropolitan regions and to network them globally via the economic corridors of the New Silk Road. The PRC's 13th Five-Year Plan, which is valid from 2016 to 2020, identified the Pearl River Delta, on which Hong Kong, Shenzhen and other major cities are located, as one of the central metropolitan clusters. Shortly thereafter, this idea was differentiated as a project to integrate the economic areas of Hong Kong, Macao and the neighboring mainland Chinese cities and regions. The integration of this delta also includes the construction of bridges and tunnel systems; Transport times should be minimized by high-speed trains. The possibility that Hong Kong law could be overridden on board these trains and in the corresponding stations led to violent protests [17] - and thus again expressed the fear of a final integration of Hong Kong according to Beijing conditions.

Umbrella movement

The protest movements in Hong Kong under the name "Umbrella Movement" [18] - sometimes also known as the "Umbrella Revolution" - sparked off in 2014 on the decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress of August 31, 2014, which laid down the requirements for the nomination and election procedures for the next Hong Kong head of government. Pro-democratic groups had hoped that the course would be set for a direct election of the head of government in 2017. The requirement that a nomination committee should nominate possible candidates for the office of head of government in advance was rejected as unacceptable by the advocates of further democratization in Hong Kong. In addition, Beijing finally stipulated for 2017 that the election of the head of government would not be made by the Hong Kongers themselves, but would continue to be made by an electoral body made up of 1,200 representatives of Hong Kong's professional, social and religious groups, the members of the Legislative Council and the Hong Kong National Assembly People's Congress includes. The majority of the members of the election committee was and is attributed to the Beijing-related camp, so that a nomination or even an election victory of a candidate critical of Beijing was classified as hopeless in advance.

The protagonists of the group "Occupy Central with Love and Peace" occupied the financial and banking district from 2014, long in the run-up to the elections, as an expression of their contradiction and, in addition to the withdrawal of the decision, called for steps towards a comprehensive democratization of Hong Kong. Student protest movements taking place at the same time - the Hong Kong Federation of Students led by Alex Chow and the Scholarism movement associated with Joshua Wong, from which the new Demosisto party emerged in 2016 - demanded general, free elections without any influence from Beijing, as well as the resignation of the former Prime Minister Leung Chun-ying. [19] From the ranks of the opposition, it was said that he had close contacts with the Chinese Communist Party and that he had betrayed both the identity and the special status of Hong Kong: Leung gave his inaugural speech in 2012 not in Cantonese but in Mandarin, which was the already tense situation in Hong Kong had further fueled. [20]

In June 2014, in the run-up to the protests, the Information Office of the State Council of the PRC published a White Paper on Hong Kong underlining Beijing's commitment to the "one country, two systems" principle. [21] While comments from the mainland media stressed the need to avoid chaos in Hong Kong and stick to the status quo, the pro-democracy Hong Kong media reacted with alarm, suspecting Beijing was trying to expand access and control over Hong Kong. The Occupy Central movement suspected that it could be an attempt to stop the informal referendums taking place in Hong Kong on the election modes of the upcoming 2017 elections for the head of government and to intimidate the Hong Kong democracy movement in a targeted manner. [22]

The umbrella and follow-up protests that unleashed in the course of the condemnation of the initiators and protagonists of the movement culminated in a five-point catalog of the demonstrators in 2019/20. [23] In addition to the original demand for general and free elections without the possibility of interference by Beijing, the activists are demanding, among other things, a general amnesty for the detained demonstrators and the withdrawal of the extradition law, which could allow Hong Kong citizens to be transferred and sentenced by the courts of the PRC. The draft extradition law was withdrawn on October 23, 2019 [24] - the other demands still exist.

The extradition law was up for debate because in the specific case of a Hong Kong man accused of murder in Taiwan who is staying in Hong Kong, it is not possible under current law to transfer him to the competent courts in Taiwan. The pro-democratic Hong Kong opposition expressed fear - especially with a view to the trials against the activists of the umbrella movement - that a corresponding extended extradition law would also enable Hong Kong activists to be transferred to the mainland Chinese courts.

There was also heated debate over Article 23 of the Hong Kong Basic Law. The article stipulates that Hong Kong should draft laws to prevent any form of high treason, secession, sedition and attempts to overthrow Beijing's central government. The 2002 attempt by the Hong Kong administration to enact an "anti-subversion law" was followed by massive protests. The project was then dropped.

Under the incumbent Prime Minister Carrie Lam, however, the procedural bases of the Legislative Council were changed in December 2017 - which, from the perspective of the opposition, could have paved the way for an implementation of the requirements of Article 23. The quorum required for voting - under Article 75 of the Basic Law half of the members of the Legislative Council, which currently has 70 people - has been reduced from 35 to 20. At the same time, the number of signatures required for an investigation was increased from 20 to 35, which, as the opposition emphasizes, additionally strengthens the majority of representatives close to Beijing and relativizes the possibility of delaying tactics - especially by the pro-democratic members of the Legislative Council. Carrie Lam firmly denied any connection between the procedural changes and Article 23. [25]

As Carrie Lam's rowing back in the case of the controversial extradition law shows, the camp close to Beijing is also trying to consider the fears and uncertainties of the Hong Kong population.But even after the law was withdrawn, the street protests continued - especially on days with high symbolic power such as the 70th anniversary of the PRC in early October 2019 or New Year's Eve 2019/20.

Impact on Taiwan

Despite the increasing escalation in Hong Kong and the sometimes partial drifting of the originally largely peaceful demonstrations to street battles, Beijing did not intervene actively, such as by sending additional security forces or military units. The political leadership in Beijing is careful not to allow itself to be forced to deviate from the "one country, two systems" formula. It is emphasized again and again that the unity and stability of China come first and that any kind of "chaos" should be avoided.

Hong Kong was and is not the only scene of anti-Beijing protests. In March and April 2014, before the umbrella movement, there were demonstrations in Taiwan against the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement between mainland China and Taiwan, in particular against the planned opening of the Taiwanese service sector. These protests, known as the "sunflower movement", culminated with the occupation of parliament in Taipei. [27] The subsequent electoral success of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DFP) - which is attributed to the "green" camp, to which a general tendency towards autonomy and demarcation from Beijing is attributed - illustrates the reservations and fears of the people of Taiwan. Under Taiwan's DFP President Tsai Ing-wen, who was elected in 2016, relations with the USA were strengthened and, at the same time, symbolic distancing from Beijing, in contrast to the politics of the "blue" camp. In her speech on "Double Tenth" 2019 - October 10th, which is considered the national holiday of the Republic of China - Tsai claimed that Beijing was also planning to impose the formula "one country, two systems" on Taiwan. The majority of Taiwan's 23 million inhabitants, said Tsai, reject this and see it as an acute danger to Taiwan's democracy and freedom. Hong Kong also illustrates the failure of the "one country, two systems" solution. [28] The Hong Kong "South China Morning Post" took up this immediately and contrasted Tsai's speech with Xi Jinping's address on the national holiday of the PRC on October 1, in which he underlined the unity of China as the top priority and adhered to the formula "One country, two systems ". [29]

In response to the protests in Hong Kong, which flared up again and again, Xi Jinping spoke up at the BRICS summit in Brazil in November 2019 and expressed Beijing's support for Carrie Lam as Hong Kong's head of government. He had also explicitly emphasized that the "one country, two systems" principle had not been violated by Beijing's positions, but solely by the violent protests in Hong Kong. [30] As a symbolic counter-image to the "failure" of this formula postulated by Tsai Ing-wen, Xi emphasized the success of the "one country, two systems" integration model on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Macau Special Administrative Region in December 2019. [31]

In his greeting to the Chinese in Taiwan in early January 2020, Xi underlined the importance of the 1992 consensus and the idea of ​​national unity (and, in the long term, national reunification). He also said Beijing reserves the right to use non-peaceful means in the event of Taiwan's declaration of independence or interference from outside actors. [32] The People's Congress of the PRC passed an anti-secession law in 2005 in response to the initiative of then-President of Taiwan, Chen Shuibian, to achieve formal independence for Taiwan. [33]

Relations with Beijing serve as an instrument for generating a majority and mobilizing voters, especially during election campaigns. Both the opposition parties in Taiwan and individual representatives of the student groups in Hong Kong accuse Tsai of using the protest movement in Hong Kong for strategic election purposes and not really supporting the demonstrators. [34]

In the presidential elections on January 11, 2020, Tsai Ing-wen received 57.1 percent of the vote. The opposition candidate, Han Kuo-yu from the National People's Party (KMT), came in at 38.6 percent. If one takes into account that the DFP had suffered a strong loss of votes in the past local elections, Tsai's election campaign, in which she painted the situation in Hong Kong on the wall as a bleak future scenario of a Taipei controlled by Beijing, seems to have worked. While the protests in Hong Kong have global support, the invocation of maintaining the status quo dominates in Taiwan. Tsai's rejection of the 1992 consensus - with which both sides of the Taiwan Strait agreed that there was only one China, but different interpretations of how it should be designed - is interpreted as a departure from the previous structures. International congratulations on the election victory of the DFP were accordingly rather the exception. The state news agency of the PRC, Xinhua, accused Tsai Ing-wen and her party of electoral fraud and "dirty" campaign tactics such as "intimidation and repression" in the aftermath of the elections, and saw the political escalation as the manipulation of "external" agitators ]

The (international) speculations about a unilateral termination of the "one country, two systems" principle by Beijing illustrate the uncertainty that goes hand in hand with the increase in power of the People's Republic of China. Some observers assume that an increase in economic power inevitably entails political and revisionist (territorial) claims. Beijing actively counteracts these expectations and emphasizes its self-commitment to harmony and continuity - and tries to counteract an escalation without relativizing its basic standpoint of the one-China principle.