Beijing tightens grip on Hong Kong

Beijing tightens grip on Hong Kong

For those in doubt of China's generosity towards Hong Kong, here are some statistics.

As of the end of last year, 95 per cent of live pigs, 100 per cent of live cattle, 33 per cent of live chicken, 100 per cent of freshwater fish, 90 per cent of vegetables and 70 per cent of flour consumed by Hong Kongers were supplied by the mainland.

And then there were those long bleak days in 2003, when the Sars epidemic struck, fear settled over the city and Beijing "promptly lent a helping hand", providing free medical supplies even as Chinese leaders visited hospitals to console victims.

The details are among many painstakingly laid out in a White Paper - the first ever on the one country, two systems framework that has governed China's relationship with Hong Kong in the past 17 years - heralding the model a "widely recognised success".

Released last week by China's Cabinet, or the State Council, the document is 14,500 words long, was issued in seven languages and is sold for a song - HK$5 (S$0.80) - at bookshops here.

Behind the niceties though, the real message is far more pointed: Beijing is in total control of Hong Kong - high degree of autonomy or not - and will not hesitate to intervene in its affairs, whether by doling out benefits or cracking the whip.

The "two systems" in the equation, the document states, are subordinate to "one country".

Hong Kong's autonomy "is not an inherent power but one that comes solely from the authorisation by the central leadership".

And so, whatever autonomy Hong Kong enjoys is at Beijing's pleasure. What it gives, it can also take back.

Another key point concerns the long-promised system of universal suffrage for selecting the chief executive and legislative council (LegCo) - the form of which is now under contentious debate.

The White Paper ups the ante by invoking the issue that "the country's sovereignty, security and development interests" are at stake. The chief executive "must be a person who loves the country and Hong Kong" - taken to mean the ruling out of anyone from the pan-democracy camp.

Judges, categorised as among Hong Kong's "administrators", also need to fulfil this "basic political requirement".

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