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Friday, Feb 26, 2021

Freedoms under two systems remain vital to Hong Kong

Freedoms under two systems remain vital to Hong Kong

Liaison office chief may have hammered home the importance of ‘one country’ for Hong Kong on National Day, but city’s high degree of autonomy must continue.
There is perhaps no better occasion than National Day for Beijing to hammer home the concept of “one country”.

Coming after a year of turmoil fuelled by growing tension and conflict, yesterday’s speech by the central government’s envoy is more than a ritual marking the 71st anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. It is the clearest signal yet that sovereignty and national security are still a work in progress in Hong Kong.

Addressing the October 1 anniversary following the enactment of the national security law, liaison office director Luo Huining said order was gradually returning. Whether it can be sustained remains to be seen.

While the statute may act as a deterrent, it does little to win the hearts of many who take issue with the way it was imposed. The occasional unruly protest amid restrictions limiting the number of those that gather during the pandemic is a reflection of the lingering discontent among certain quarters in society.

Increasingly, many Hongkongers feel that the promised high degree of autonomy and freedoms has been eroded. But Beijing is more concerned with the way the governing principle of “one country, two systems” is being implemented, and taking an increasingly assertive approach to city affairs.

Luo’s warning that the two systems are being distorted by some to oppose one country underlines Beijing’s worries.

Speaking at the same ceremony, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor thanked the central government for enacting the national security law to help restore order and stability. But she must realise that the unrest triggered by her unpopular and now-withdrawn extradition bill is far from over.

Ten months ago, she acknowledged the need for an independent review committee to study factors contributing to the unrest; but that promise has yet to be honoured. Tensions may well continue unless more concrete actions are taken to ease public grievances.

It is regrettable that the concept of one country, two systems has yet to be accurately implemented after 23 years of reunification. The need to enhance understanding of sovereignty and national security is inevitable, but it is important that the freedoms and autonomy under two systems be fully preserved.

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