Denying Democracy in Hong Kong

This week marks the 15th Anniversary of the promulgation of Hong Kong’s constitution, the Basic Law, by China’s National People’s Congress. The Basic Law supposedly established a political framework to accord with the late Deng Xiaoping’s policy of “one country, two systems,” with Hong Kong’s people ruling Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy.

Under this policy, Hong Kong’s capitalist system, the rule of law, and its people’s freedoms and way of life were to be preserved. It provided for a popularly elected Chief Executive and Legislative Council. Indeed, apart from defense and foreign affairs, Hong Kong was to be master of its own house.

But, despite its promise of universal suffrage, the Basic Law restricts democratic development during the first ten years after the handover of Hong Kong to China. As a result, full democracy is to be permitted only in 2007.

I said in my maiden speech in the Legislative Council in 1985 that the policy of “one country, two systems” cannot work without democracy. As Deng once said of China: “With a good system, even evil men cannot do evil. But without a good system, even good men cannot do good, but may be forced to do evil.”