On March 14, 2021, Ambassador Cui Tiankai's op-ed "With patriots governing Hong Kong, 'one country, two systems' is guaranteed" was published on the website of The South China Morning Post (also in the print edition of March 15). Here is the full text of the article:
The 4th session of the 13th National People's Congress (NPC) of China held recently made a decision to improve Hong Kong's electoral system. The purpose is to provide an institutional guarantee for the principle of "patriots governing Hong Kong", and ultimately for the long-term implementation of "one country, two systems". To gain an accurate understanding, let me share with you the following perspectives.
First and foremost, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is a subnational jurisdiction of China, whose political system, including the electoral system, shall be decided by the central government. The NPC is China's top legislature. Its decision to improve Hong Kong's electoral system fully accords with China's constitution and the Basic Law of Hong Kong, and holds indisputable legitimacy and authority. In unitary states, it is a common constitutional provision and political practice for the central government to decide how local elections are held, and there is nothing to find fault with.
Many concerns have been raised about "patriots governing Hong Kong", which I am afraid is hard to understand. A country's citizens and, in particular, public servants should love their country – isn't it the very least to be expected?
It is also common international practice to demand that people in public office pledge loyalty to their country. For example, in the United States, citizens need to swear allegiance to the state, and for those in public office, the requirement is more stringent. Hong Kong, as a Chinese SAR, shall be governed by people who love their country. I don't see any problem with that.
On the other hand, because there are deficiencies in Hong Kong's electoral system and because not all those in public office are patriots, some people have been able to exploit the situation. In recent years, especially since the violent protests in 2019, some forces have entered various government and legislative institutions via election and engaged in anti-China activities to disrupt Hong Kong's social order.
They even plotted to take control of the Legislative Council to dominate the administration of Hong Kong. Let us suppose this is in the US – how would Americans respond to such a situation? Well, the answer can be easily found from what happened in the US not long ago.
In the case of Hong Kong, external forces keep on bolstering the rioters and those behind them. By improving the electoral system, we are able to eliminate such risks and close an institutional loophole to ensure the stability of Hong Kong. The central government is honouring its constitutional responsibility since the introduction of Hong Kong's national security law.
There have also been concerns that Hong Kong's democracy will be eroded, which is completely unnecessary. Democracy had simply been nonexistent in Hong Kong during its 150-plus years of colonial rule, and has only been established since its return to China, which has given Hong Kong people democratic rights they never enjoyed before.
The NPC's decision will lead to a new electoral system that suits Hong Kong's realities and reflects the interests of society. It will ensure extensive and balanced political participation, and defend the rights of every permanent resident of Hong Kong to vote and stand for election.
The principle of "patriots governing Hong Kong" does not mean that we will drive out diversity. "Patriots" covers a wide scope, and we have always been broad-minded towards those with different political opinions.
Simply put, to improve the electoral system is to ensure a healthier and better development of Hong Kong's democracy. Those paying lip service to democracy are either imposing their own models on others or using democracy to meddle with other countries' internal affairs. This goes completely against the spirit of democracy.
The claims that "one country, two systems" will be weakened cannot be more wrong. Since Hong Kong's return, "patriots governing Hong Kong" has been an essential principle of "one country, two systems". To improve the electoral system is not to deny or abandon "one country, two systems".
Quite the opposite, it is to return to its very foundation and ensure its development in the right direction. Only on the basis of that can Hong Kong eliminate fundamental instability, avoid unnecessary damage and concentrate on the development and people's livelihoods.
We Chinese believe that misfortune may be a blessing in disguise. I am sure that once the loopholes are closed, we will again see a stable and prosperous Hong Kong. It will be wonderful news and bring huge opportunities to Hong Kong residents and foreign investors, including American ones.
As the famous Hong Kong song Below the Lion Rock says, let us be of one mind to pursue our dreams, and together we will strive to write a timeless story of our home.