There is a bug in the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ in HK - A Case of the Extradition Bill Incident

Abstract submitted to the Annual Conference of HK Political Science Association in Oct 2019

Edward C.Y. Yiu

Sep 6, 2019

The ‘One Country, Two Systems’ (OCTS) formula was originally designed as an attempt to balance the political power between a city and the central government of a country by promising high degree of autonomy and universal suffrage to the city. It has been practiced in Hong Kong and Macau since the 1990s after handing-over the sovereignties from the colonists to China.

However, after 20+ years of experiment, especially after the Extradition Bill Movement in Hong Kong since Jun 9, 2019, it is basically an international consensus that the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ formula does not work, at least in Hong Kong in the current form.

Being one of the pro-democratic politicians heavily involved in the past 5 years’ events happened in HK, I discovered that there is an intrinsic flaw in the OCTS formula. When the two parties (country v. city) of the OCTS formula are highly asymmetric in power and resources, whenever there are disputes or disagreements between them, there is no built-in dispute resolution mechanism to help resolve them, nor any independent and equally powerful third parties to mediate or arbitrate, the high degree of autonomy would not be able to be guaranteed, both in theory and in practice.

Worse still, the Chinese government even announced that the UK government, being one of the signatories of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which is an international treaty, does not have any rights to monitor the implementation of the promises of the Declaration. In other words, the high degree of autonomy promised by the OCTS formula is fragile and merely relies on the self-restraint of the central government.

In the Extradition Bill incident, it clearly demonstrates that the US government and international pressure have played the role of scrutinizing and mediating the dispute between the country and the city. The US-HK Policy Act (it is now proposing to be amended to the US-HK Human Rights and Democracy Act) is purely an internal matter of the USA, but it helps impose deterrents on the Chinese government from cracking down inhumanely the Movement. The statements issued by different government officials, congresspersons, international NGOs and academics, highlighted the concerns on the events, have also helped stop the PLA from patrolling HK.

ecyY is the Founder of Real Estate Development and Building Research & Information Centre REDBRIC

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