Under the concept of One Country, Two systems, Hong Kong has enjoyed the best of both worlds of being an autonomous region and at the same time benefiting from the China mainland’s phenomenal growth and peaceful rise as a global power.

“One Country, Two systems” is a successful model of nation development that Malaysia, as a federal system of government, can learn from. In fact, the United Kingdom too, can learn from this concept of One Country, Two systems to solve their dilemma of their Irish back stop caused by their imminent Brexit.

This is because when the UK leaves the European Union on 31 October this year, the UK has a problem that they, the British, cannot solve – which is to keep their land border with Ireland open and free from any customs control. But their problem is that Ireland also has an open border with the rest of EU. The UK wants to open their borders with Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (which is part of the UK) but wants to have border control with continental Europe. This is the dilemma that the British are still scratching their heads with no idea how to move forward.

The UK can learn from this brilliant formula (One Country, Two Systems) of Deng Xiao Peng. The UK, which had colonised Hong Kong using gun boat and opium trade, possess no wisdom and foresight on how the One Country, Two Systems have made Hong Kong prosper and progress as a global city. It should be noted that Hong Kong enjoys the most autonomy more than any other regions in the world. Hong Kong has its own central bank and currency, judiciary, police and immigration, ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption), its own universities, airlines. Hong Kong participates in the Olympics and APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Caucus) standing side by side with other countries. Hong Kong does not pay a single cent of tax to Beijing. Only external defence and foreign affairs are outside Hong Kong’s jurisdiction, and rightly so.

We should change with the world

One lesson for Asians is that we should adapt to the changes in the world that affect us. The world has changed. Global markets have shifted to the growing economies of the East. Young people are influenced by social media beyond the control of traditional government power. But Hong Kong has not changed. On the one hand, Hong Kong protesters want to resist the growing soft power of mainland China. On the other hand, the Hong Kong government is blinded to the frustrations of Hong Kong’s young people who refuse to move forward in the new world order where the West is no longer dominant. The new world order will see the re-emergence of Asia, especially China and India, as new global centres of power. China is already the world’s biggest economy based on purchasing power parity (ppp). And China is changing very fast.

Malaysians arriving at China are pleasantly surprised when, upon presentation of our passports to the immigration officer, we are greeted in the Malay language. English grammatical errors in public notices, which were common before, are now rare. Over the last 20 years of travelling to mainland China, travellers have observed that their Immigration, customs, public transport services and quality of life generally have noticeably improved very fast.

While I was at Beijing as part of the Malaysian parliamentary delegation in 2000, the media representative in Beijing interviewed our Parliament Speaker, Tun Zahir, in fluent Malay. She had learnt Malay as a language in university. At Shenzhen’s Luowu train station shopping centre, shop assistants spoke basic Malay to sell their goods. The point is, unlike in Hong Kong, mainland China businesses make extra efforts to connect to the outside world.

Not only that. When I attended the London School of Economics (London University) ASIA Forum at Beijing in 2010, the Forum was graced by LSE’s most senior alumnus in China, the then Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. The UK was represented by the Special Representative for International Trade (Prince Andrew). Harvard-educated Liu He, the then Vice Minister on Economic Affairs, (now a Vice Premier and China’s chief negotiator with the US on the US-China trade war) was also present.

In comparison, at the same Asia Forum in Hong Kong 5 years earlier (2005), the Hong Kong government was represented by only its Acting Finance Secretary. The British government did not even bother to send a representative.
In other words, Hong Kong is fast losing its political significance to mainland China in the eyes of its old colonial power.

China has moved forward. Hong Kong has not.
Having joined the WTO (World Trade Organisation) and embraced market economy, complete with stock markets, China has shed its tag as “factory of the world’ to become a centre of scientific innovation.

China’s aviation industry is the fasting growing in the world. With 600 million passenger trips last year, China will become the biggest civil aviation market in the world by 2025, according to IATA (International Air Transport Association). State of the art airports are coming up at many cities.

The strength of the Renminbi, which has overtaken the Hong Kong dollar years ago, does not deter foreigners from going to China because it is still a relatively low cost country to visit with lots to see and experience.

For us in Sabah, 15 years ago, most Sabahans flying from Kota Kinabalu had to stop over at Hong Kong before entering the mainland. But now, there are more than 60 weekly flights from KK alone to mainland China cities whereas there are only 14 weekly flights to Hong Kong. Hong Kong used to be China’s “interface” with the outside world. Hong Kong made a lot of money from people going to and from China. Hong Kong benefitted from the growing prosperity of China, especially from neighbouring Guangdong province. But the time has come when travellers and business people simply by-pass Hong Kong.

By international standards, Hong Kong is a mid-size city, with a global ranking of 104 by population. With a population of only 7.3 million, Hong Kong is not even among the top 10 most populous city in China. Neighbouring Shenzhen city, with its 12 million hardworking and innovative people, is the fast-paced tech-city of the East.

Three ASEAN capital cities, Manila (pop. 13 m), Bangkok (10m) and Jakarta (10m) already outsize Hong Kong. Tokyo (38m) and Seoul (10m) make Hong Kong look small by comparison. Nine of the fastest growing city economies in the world are in English-speaking India, with Mumbai (pop. 24m) taking the lead as a growing global financial centre. Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh are the fastest growing cities in the world.

Outside Europe and North America, English-speaking Dubai in the Middle East has become another major challenger to Hong Kong’s attraction for foreign funds.

According to the Global Financial Centre Index, Hong Kong is still ranked 3rd (after New York and London) but other Asian financial centres (Singapore (ranked 4th), Shanghai (5th) Tokyo (6th) and Beijing(8th) are very close behind.

Where do these realities, and more, put Hong Kong?

The recent troubles in Hong Kong has suddenly made Singapore look much more attractive than Hong Kong as a city for business and for living. The recent relocation of the headquarters of Dyson Ltd., a British home appliances company (valued at USD 8 billion, 12,000 employees) from England to Singapore drove home the point that Hong Kong is losing its attractiveness to Singapore. Unlike Singapore, which is peaceful, safe and clean, Hong Kong’s streets have been taken over by “freedom loving” mobs, especially at weekends.

Ugly scenes of clashes between protesters and police in the streets of Hong Kong leave a bad taste among visitors to Hong Kong. All street rallies cause traffic chaos. Traffic chaos can make you miss flights and severely upset your plans. While the western media praised the bravery of young protesters attacking police, many people around the world, including in Malaysia, are aghast by scenes of violence against police officers. After all, the police force of Hong Kong is internationally reputed to be one of the best, most professional and incorruptible in the world.

No country in the world allowed its high streets and central business districts to be occupied illegally by “protestors” for several days and nights. Only Hong Kong allowed protesters to occupy its international airport and to disrupt public transport. This is ridiculous. No country in the world allowed its parliament to be occupied and its national symbols defaced. Only in Hong Kong. Hence, this has caused a serious damage to the rule of law, the foundation of a free society, in Hong Kong.

Perhaps, Hong Kong’s young people are not aware that a key factor of a conducive business environment is political stability and rule of law. Mob rule and random clashes at high streets and shopping malls do not give confidence to anyone.
Extradition, street protests and mental health
Until recently, Hong Kong people had only watched street violence in faraway cities on their TV screens. Reportedly 1 out of 10 Hong Kong people now suffer from mental illness as a direct result of recent street protests. “The whole society has fallen into hysteria due to a volcanic eruption of the deep-seated identity crisis triggered by the extradition bill,” said the Director of the Centre for Suicide Prevention at University of HK. “People are upset, worrying about the safety of others and feeling uncertain about their own life. I have never seen Hongkongers so unsettled and troubled by the feeling that nothing is under control.”

Triggered by (mostly unfounded fears) over the proposed extradition bill that would have allowed the extradition of criminals to and from Taiwan and China, the protests have now turned to attacking innocent, mainland China traders.

Putting things in perspective, Hong Kong has extradition treaties with only 30 countries whereas China has treaties with 39 countries. Extradition laws are so tough to fulfill that Hongkongers need not fear the abuse of the extradition in their One Country, two Systems administration of justice.

There are 2 well known cases of disputed extradition in recent times. The first is the attempted extradition (to the US) of Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer, Meng Wanzhou, who was on transit at Canada, on the way to Mexico. Secondly, is the controversial, ongoing attempt to extradite Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, from the UK to US.

Another case is the whistle blower Edward Snowden. If he had not escaped from Hong Kong to Russia in time (in 2013), then he too would have been extradited to the US. Ironically, all these cases show that controversial extraditions only concern the US.

Ignorance of history condemns us to the injustices of the past – Union Jack and Opium War

It is amusing to see some Hong Kong youths flew the colonial Union Jack (British flag) at their protests. Hong Kong, was after all, the British trophy for winning the Opium Wars at the height of the “Chinese Century of Humiliation”.

The UN anti-drugs day fall on 24 June, the day in 1839 when Governor Lin Zexu completed the 3-week destruction of 1.2 million kilograms of opium seized from opium dealers. After losing the Opium Wars, a weakened China had to compensate British opium dealers, surrendered to one-sided “free trade” agreements and ceded Hong Kong Island in perpetuity to UK. It is a cruel coincidence that in 2019 (180 years later) the youths of Hong Kong have forgotten or chosen to ignore this humiliation by colonial invaders peddling opium to their forefathers.

Datuk Yong Teck Lee, Ex-Chief Minister of Sabah (1996-1998)

Author: webmaster